WEST CHESTER (March 10) – In the wake of a hazing incident that resulted in assault charges against three Conestoga High School football players, state Senator Andy Dinniman is calling for expanding Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law.
“Hazing is nothing more than another form of bullying,” Dinniman said. “It hurts both the athletic and academic environments and has no place in our schools or communities.”
This week Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, wrote to Senator Lloyd Smucker, the majority chair, urging him to call House Bill 1574 up for a vote.
“While the Conestoga High situation was criminal in action, broadening anti-hazing statutes would be a preventative measure that could go a long way in deterring hazing from reaching the serious criminal level it did at Conestoga,” Dinniman wrote in the March 9 letter.
House Bill 1574 calls for better protections for student athletes, and young people from hazing by expanding Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law to apply to public and private secondary schools (grades 7 through 12), as well as organizations affiliated with schools in which students participate, such as private athletic clubs.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law, Act 175 of 1986, only applies to public and private institutions of higher education. The law establishes the crime of hazing as a third-degree misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $2,000. In addition, it requires colleges and universities to establish anti-hazing policies, rules and penalties for violations.
Dinniman also said he plans to introduce an amendment to House Bill 1574 that would require schools to provide coaches with a written copy of their anti-hazing policy, their program of enforcement, and the penalties for violations of such rules. In addition, schools would be required to provide coaches with information regarding the dangers of hazing.
“By expanding the law to cover high school students and athletes, my hope is we may help prevent and deter similar situations in the future,” Dinniman said. “This behavior is wrong and cannot be tolerated. Young adults need to know that it is dangerous and will result in real consequences.”
House Bill 1574 passed the House by a vote of 197-3 in November and has been in the Senate Education since then.