A law proposed in the New York State Assembly that seeks to define hazing more broadly and prohibit it has moved to the Senate for approval. The law, which was proposed by Assemblyman David Weprin, was motivated by the death of 19-year-old Michael Deng at a fraternity retreat in Pennsylvania. Deng was forced to carry a backpack filled with 20 pounds of sand while other fraternity members knocked him down. Deng suffered a traumatic brain injury and later died.
New York State currently bans “hazing”, as does 43 other states. Only Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii do not have anti-hazing laws on the books. However, New York’s current definition only mentions “conduct” that creates a substantial risk of physical injury. The proposed law expands the term conduct to include making physical contact or requiring physical activity and makes it clear that the definition is not limited to physical contact or activity. This expansion of the definition works to cover all instances of hazing.
“Hazing has been taking place for years and there are injuries related to hazing that have gone unreported or unpunished because of a belief that only physical violence should be off limits,” said Neil A. Goldstein, a Long Island Hazing Attorney with the law firm of Goldstein & Bashner. This change in the law will make all activities designed to “initiate” and individual that may result in physical or emotional harm off limits.
If you were injured due to any instance of hazing, regardless of whether physical violence was involved, you should seek competent counsel to assist you and protect your rights. Laws such as the one proposed in New York State are designed to protect individuals from harm, but those who suffered injuries from instances of hazing must still work to assert their rights.