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What Illinois parents should know about hazing

After the heat of August comes the start of a new school year. For many Illinois parents, that means sending their kids off to college. Textbooks, dreams, dorms, academic aspirations and-all too often-brutal and demeaning hazing rituals.

Every year, students across the United States throw themselves into unsafe situations to gain the approval of others. And then once they've earned their memberships, they eagerly turn around and lash out at the next crop of freshmen. It's a cycle of violence often dismissed as youthful exuberance, or childish folly, but it's dangerous, illegal and increasingly under the spotlight.

In some states, hazing can lead to felony charges

The laws for hazing can vary from state to state, but nearly every state has some. According to HazingPrevention.org, the only states that don't have hazing laws are:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

In every other state, students should understand how the laws set limits on their social hijinks, especially if those students intend to join one of the Greek fraternities or sororities historically linked to hazing activities.

In many cases, as in Illinois, the laws hold students responsible for the injuries and embarrassment they may cause-even if they act without intent. Illinois law says it's enough for someone to "recklessly" lead another person through an initiation ritual that "results in bodily harm." If the harm is serious enough, the hazing can lead to a Felony 4 charge.

And what do the students earn for going through with the hazing?

Even though official Greek society policy may ban and frown upon hazing, they are largely synonymous with the term. Hazing isn't exclusive to Greek societies, but that's where we usually hear of it. So are Greek societies worth all the potential trouble?

A 2018 article in The Atlantic reported that students from Greek societies often made roughly 15 percent more money than other students. But the studies also noted that the societies, themselves, had minimal impact. Once the studies adjusted for the students' levels of privilege, the societies did nothing for their income. Instead, they have several more negative effects:

  • Students who join Greek societies see their grades drop as though they were to go from having "average" teachers to "below average" teachers.
  • Another article from The Atlantic noted that men who join fraternities are three times more likely to commit rapes than those who don't.
  • The young women who join sororities are far more likely to become the victims of sexual violence than those who don't. Freshman and sophomore girls are especially vulnerable.

Of course, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that students involved in dangerous, drunken partying and hazing activities are also more likely to put themselves at risk for DUIs and charges of underage drinking.

Parents can help their students act responsibly

As a parent, you must believe and hope that you've raised your children with a working understanding of right and wrong. Before you send them off to college, you may want to review the hazing laws for their school's state. There are benefits to Greek societies, but there are risks as well. Make sure your child knows the limits.

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