Parents and Families
Each year, tens of thousands of young people get involved at schools and organizations across the country. Whether it is a marching band, fraternity, sorority, military affiliated group, summer camp, athletic team, or any of the dozens of other student groups, your student is seeking a place to make friends, enjoy social opportunities, practice leadership skills or just try something new.
What Parents and Families Need to Know
The majority of student organizations and teams provide amazing, positive experiences for their members. However, some organizations engage in negative behaviors known as hazing – acts of humiliation or demeaning tasks meant to ‘prove’ an individual’s commitment and worthiness to joining a group.
Hazing has existed for centuries, and schools and colleges are going to great lengths to prevent it. It is important for you and your student to educate yourself to prevent or report any hazing that does occur.
Hazing comes in many forms and definitions may vary, but it is generally agreed that hazing is any action taken, or situation created intentionally, that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule, risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team whether new or not, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.
The legal definition may vary from state to state but trust your common sense. Here are a number of activities that may be considered hazing by your school or organization:
- Activities meant to ‘earn’ a place within an organization or team that seem inconsistent with someone’s character or values
- Activities that are embarrassing or mentally/physically abusive
- Forces or coerced abuse of alcohol
- Personal servitude or meaningless tasks
Many times students may not identify these activities as hazing. In fact, 9 out of 10 students who have experienced it do not consider themselves to have been hazed. If you question the value, safety, or potential negative impact of an activity, then you have the right to express concern and ask questions.
Your student may or may not feel comfortable expressing concern directly to you if being hazed. Here are some key things to look for that might help you identify whether or not your student may be experiencing hazing:
- Sudden change in behavior or attitude after joining the organization or team
- Wanting to leave the organization or team with no real explanation
- Sudden decrease in communication with friends and family
- Physical or psychological exhaustion
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained injuries or illness
- Change in sleeping or eating habits
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Expressed feeling of sadness or feeling of worthlessness
- Increase in secrecy and unwillingness to share details
Talk to your student if you see any of these signs. If your conversations leave you with unresolved concern or direct suspicion of hazing, then you need to take your concerns higher. Contact the university organization advisor (i.e. call the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, band director, etc.) or coach. You can also file a report using the university online system. While the report can be filed anonymously, please know that anonymous reports severely limit the university’s ability to understand the scope of the incident, take action, or hold the perpetrator accountable. If at any time you feel your student’s life is in danger, please call 911.
When you call an organization advisor or coach, you can expect an official to have a confidential discussion with you before launching an investigation into the organization’s activities. In most cases your student’s name will not be used, unless he or she comes forward and files a complaint.
There are positive ways for organizations and teams to build loyalty and a sense of belonging. But many times they need the support of advisors, coaches and you to make the positive change. Your actions can help promote strong student organizations and teams, creating a positive experience for every student.
Talk to Your Student About Hazing
It is important to take a proactive role in fighting hazing. Each year, hundreds if not thousands of students are involved in hazing. What some consider ‘tradition’ or ‘paying your dues’ can turn into a truly dangerous or deadly event. Simply put, hazing’s potential for harm – both physical and psychological – is tremendous. Please join schools across the country in taking a proactive stance against hazing by talking to your student about hazing as they become involve in student organizations and teams.
Questions to Ask Your Student Before They Join an Organization or Team
- What activities do you think you want to be involved in at school?
- Do you know what hazing is?
- How can you stand up or say ‘no’ if it occurs?
- What are resources online or at school you can utilize if you experience hazing?
- Do you know your school’s policies on hazing and consequences if caught?
- Do you know how to report hazing?
Questions to Ask After Involvement Begins
- What organizations or teams are you involved in?
- How much time are you spending on the organization or team?
- What kinds of activities are involved in joining this group or team? Are you comfortable with all of these? Is there adult supervision and/or approval of these activities?
- Is alcohol or drugs involved in any of these activities?
- Have you met the organization’s advisor or coach? Do they approve of these activities?
Resource provided by HazingPrevention.Org.