Members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 4 on a bill that would expand the prohibition of hazing.
Current statute defines hazing as any activity by which a person intentionally or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health or safety of an individual for the purpose of initiation into, admission into, affiliation with or continued membership with any organization. Hazing committed by postsecondary students currently is prohibited.
LB710, introduced by Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, would expand that prohibition to include all primary and secondary school students. Hughes said the bill is more about protecting children than punishing them.
“This gives authorities more tools to try to reinforce to young people that this behavior is unacceptable and there will be legal consequences,” he said. “It will not only send a message to older kids, but also let younger children know they do not have to submit to this kind of hazing from anyone.”
The bill would expand the definition of hazing to include acts of sexual penetration, exposure of genitals, lewd fondling or caressing of another person. Any person found to have committed an act of hazing would be guilty of a Class II misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
Virginia Moon, representing the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, supported the bill. She said that schools frequently see the negative effects of hazing.
“Oftentimes some well meaning kids get excited and [escalate] a situation that was meant to be harmless but turns out to be dangerous or creates a humiliation that some students never really recover from,” she said.
If the hazing offense is committed for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with a postsecondary sanctioned organization, such organization would be subject to a fine of up to $10,000.
No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.