Whether it occurs at high school or college, hazing is a serious issue which can lead to serious injuries and deaths. Over the last several years, there have been several high profile cases which have shed light on the problem. In one of the first cases to break national news, a Florida A&M student was killed after he was beaten by at least 10 fellow students in a hazing ritual attack. More recently, there have been two more deaths attributed to hazing rituals.
Pennsylvania College Student Dies After Hazing Ritual Involving Assault
This past December, a New York college student who was pledging a fraternity was killed while he and members of the fraternity stayed at a home near the Poconos in Pennsylvania. According to an online news report, the student died as a result of head trauma. The local police department is now preparing to file criminal charges against several fraternity members after evidence showed that members of the organization waited an hour before taking the young man to a hospital.
The hazing ritual allegedly required the pledges to be blindfolded and walk across a frozen lake while tied to weighted backpacks. Other fraternity members then attacked the pledges as they walked across the lake.
According to the report, members of the fraternity carried the man inside after noticing he was unresponsive. They changed his clothing and searched the internet on head injuries. An hour later, they drove him to a hospital. Officers retrieved cell phone evidence which showed videos, photos and conversations about concealing evidence. Some fraternity members are expected to face murder charges.
California College Student Dies After Hazing Ritual Involving Hiking
Earlier last month, a college student died after suffering a heat stroke. He and fellow students were participating in pledge activities which required them to hike through a national forest in California while barefoot, without shoes or a cell phone and with little water. Park rangers found him on the trail, and he was rushed to a local hospital where he died.
In both of the cases, the local fraternity chapters were either disbanded or suspended, pending investigation.
Why School Hazing Rituals Get Out of Hand
There are two unique psychological factors that come into play during a hazing ritual: group think and diffusion of responsibility. Group think describes an unconscious process whereby individual members of a group adopt the mentality of the group due to a desire to conform. Diffusion of responsibility is a phenomenon in which an individual fails to take responsibility because others are present.
In addition, you have to factor in the maturity level of the average college student. Group think and diffusion of responsibility are powerful psychological factors alone, but when coupled with immaturity can result in hazing rituals getting out of control. This explains why hazing rituals like these most recent ones occur.
Students, fraternities and schools may face liability for a hazing injury or hazing death. Criminal charges may result. In addition, civil lawsuits may be filed by the injured student, and in the event of death, by the student’s family (wrongful death action). Read more about liability in school hazing cases.
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