Local News

Bill would make hazing students a misdemeanor

Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka

Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka

High school hazing would be outlawed under a bill introduced by state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

House Bill 189 (PDF: Full text) defines hazing as subjecting a student to the risk of physical injury for the purpose of initiation or affiliation with an organization. It applies to students from elementary school up through college.

The Sitka Democrat’s bill would make hazing a misdemeanor, unless it results in death or serious physical injury, in which case it would be a felony.

It also requires school districts to adopt policies against hazing and to file an annual report on any hazing incidents that result in suspension or expulsion. Districts already report similar cases of bullying and harassment.

Kreiss-Tomkins, a 2008 graduate of Sitka High School, says his bill is designed to clarify existing laws protecting students, and to bring more awareness to the issue of hazing.

“It’s unconscionable to me,” he said in a phone interview. “Both when I was an underclassman and watching it happen to my classmates, and to a certain extent myself, and as an upperclassman, when I watched my classmates who were once on the receiving end of it, perpetrate it. It’s just one of these cycles that has no place in schools.”

Kreiss-Tomkins says when he participated in high school sports, he witnessed hazing first-hand, although nothing as bad as what his bill would cover.

“Actually, I had well-developed evasive instincts,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I’m not sure you could ever say I was in the receiving end of it. But my friends were, and I certainly felt intimidated by it, because it was happening to people all around me, and myself. And it would have happened to myself, too, if I wasn’t good at being not in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The measure also protects people who report incidents of hazing. House Bill 189 now sits in the House Education Committee, awaiting action.

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