There are many rites of passage for those going into high school and college, especially when it comes to sports or academic clubs. Hazing is not considered an acceptable tradition, although it still occurs frequently in schools across the country. According to Illinois law, those who participate in hazing rituals may face criminal consequences.
The Illinois General Assembly explains that hazing is unlawful when such a ritual is not permitted or sanctioned by the organization the members belong to and when it results in bodily harm. Usually, hazing is a misdemeanor charge. However, when someone suffers great bodily harm or loses his or her life due to a hazing incident, the act can be considered a felony.
Numerous incidents have occurred in Illinois over the years that highlight the dangers and severity of academic hazing. According to the Chicago Tribune, five football players from Wheaton College recently faced felony charges after an incident in 2016, during which they reportedly tied up a freshman teammate with duct tape, struck him and left him unclothed on a field. He suffered injuries that required surgery. In another incident, several high school seniors were charged with hazing after reportedly beating and throwing filth on their junior classmates.
Students may believe their group’s hazing rituals are harmless fun. However, when an initiation into a fraternity, sports team or club involves forcing pledges to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol, endure beatings or be subjected to humiliation and embarrassment, a “harmless prank” can be defined as assault. Those who are facing charges for hazing are advised to seek competent counsel.