Can You Help Pass the REACH Act Targeting Hazing on College Campuses?

Last week, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) hosted a press conference to build support for the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act. Video from the event-which featured lawmakers, victims of hazing, and other stakeholders-can be viewed below:

Catalyzed, in part, by the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, who died in a hazing incident at Penn State University in February, the REACH Act seeks to ensure accountability, transparency, and education to transform how hazing incidents are tracked and prevented at postsecondary institutions in the United States. The act would require colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to 1) include incidents of hazing in their annual security report, as mandated by the Clery Act; and 2) implement hazing education programs.

Such measures are needed because hazing occurs across a range of student organizations and 55% of college students participating in groups, organizations, and teams experience hazing with documented outcomes such as physical harm, emotional trauma, and, at times, death. Julie and Gary DeVercelly, who lost their son Gary DeVercelly, Jr. to hazing in 2007, spoke at the REACH Act press conference citing 40 hazing deaths since 2007. As Gary stated at the event, “the circumstances of their deaths are disturbingly similar. Gary’s death, like Timothy’s, was the focus of national attention and it prompted calls to stop hazing. But eventually the national attention moved on and nothing was changed.”

The REACH Act is endorsed by the Clery Center, Lugar Center, Penn State University, StopHazing, HazingPrevention.Org, Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, and all national fraternity and sorority umbrella organizations, which together represent over 140 fraternities and sororities across the United States. Further support for the bill, however, is needed to ensure it is passed and meaningful progress to track and prevent hazing on college campuses is made. If you are involved with a national organization connected to higher education or a college or university, we encourage you to send this information along to your organizational leadership and ask if they would consider supporting and endorsing the REACH Act.

If you have any questions or would like to be added as a cosponsor please contact quin.roberts@mail.house.gov with Rep. Patrick Meehan at 202.225.2511 or clifton.williams@mail.house.gov with Rep. Marcia Fudge at 202.225.7032.

Vermont Lawmakers Seek To Strengthen Anti-Hazing Law

img-Jordan-s-Bill-would-tighten-rules-around-hazing-bullyingAs we’ve noted previously, “not all assault is hazing, but make no mistake, assault is one of the many weapons used in the hazing arsenal.” In the wake of the Sayreville hazing incident, however, some commentators failed to see the connection, dismissing hazing as harmless pranks and antics. Therefore, we are incredibly supportive of the 30 Vermont lawmakers who recently co-sponsored legislation that recognizes the link between hazing and sexual assault and seeks to strengthen Vermont’s existing hazing law.

According to Mike Donoghue of The Burlington Free Press, on Tuesday, February 2nd, the Vermont House of Representatives Human Services Committee received a briefing on a new anti-hazing bill. The bill is entitled the “Jordan Preavy Bill”, named for Milton High School student-athlete Jordan Preavy who experienced horrific, humiliating hazing as a new member of the high school football team in 2011. According to the Chittenden County Vermont Unit for Special Investigations, Preavy was held down by his teammates and sexually assaulted with a broomstick. Tragically, Jordan committed suicide in August of 2012. At the time of his death, Jordan’s family was yet to learn about the hazing incident and now believes that the emotional scars played a role in his decision to take his life.

Seeking to strengthen the existing Vermont hazing law, the “Jordan Preavy Bill” would make the prompt reporting of child abuse and sexualized hazing mandatory for school administrators, teachers, and other school employees. These individuals would have to notify both the police and the Vermont Department for Children and Families within 24 hours of learning about a hazing incident. As Donoghue notes, “Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan has said repeatedly the current reporting law is poorly worded and fails to ensure children can be properly protected. Donovan said he believes he could not file criminal charges against any Milton School officials for failure to report the misconduct under the current law.” While the debate about who is and isn’t a mandatory reporter remains ongoing, the Preavy family has been an advocate for having coaches and other members of the athletic department included amongst the list of those who must report such incidents.