By Holly Marie Wilson, Esq.

In response to the tragic November 2018 hazing-related death of Collin Wiant, a student at Ohio University, the Ohio Legislature has enacted Collin’s Law, set to take effect on October 7, 2021. Not only does Collin’s Law broaden the definition of hazing, but also expands who may be liable. It imposes additional requirements on educational institutions to report hazing, educate on hazing, and prevent hazing.

After October 7, 2021, the applicable definition of hazing will expand to include “any act to continue or reinstate membership in or affiliation with any student or other organization” and “coercing another to consume alcohol or a drug of abuse.” Additionally, the definition of “organization” will include “a national or international organization with which a fraternity or sorority is affiliated.” Once Collin’s Law takes effect, teachers, consultants, alumni, or volunteers may be liable for permitting hazing. 

Collin’s Law also imposes strict requirements on educational institutions. After October 7, 2021, any educational institution, including any administrator, employee, faculty member, teacher, consultant, alumnus, or volunteer, may be liable for failing to report hazing immediately. 

While Collin’s Law applies to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools and any other educational institutions, institutions of higher education have additional duties, including the creation of a policy precluding hazing, which contains:

  1. Rules prohibiting hazing;
  2. A method to enforce the policy; and
  3. Appropriate penalties including (A) fines; (B) withholding of diplomas to transcripts pending compliance with the rules or payment of fines; (C) revocation of permission to operate on campus; (D) probation, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion.

Institutions of higher education will be required to provide a copy of the policy to each organization within the institution. Each institution is thereafter required to post the policy on its public website. There will also be specific reporting requirements imposed for Institutions of higher education, requiring that all violations of the above policy be reported on the institution’s publicly accessible website, going back five years, which includes:

  1. The name and subject of the report;
  2. The date when the subject of the report was charged with a violation of the institution’s policy or state hazing law;
  3. A description of the violation, any investigation and findings by the institution, and any penalties imposed; and
  4. The date on which the matter was resolved.

Further, Collin’s Law requires institutions to provide students with an educational program including information regarding awareness, prevention, and the institution’s policy, provide at least one opportunity for students to complete the program during the student orientation session, and verify each student’s attendance at the program. Students who have not completed the program will not be permitted to join an organization until they attend the program, nor shall an organization accept or initiate any person who has not participated in the program. In addition, each institution must provide all staff and volunteers that advise or coach an organization with training on hazing awareness, hazing prevention, and the institution’s anti-hazing policy. 

In addition to increased civil penalties, the new law also changes Ohio’s criminal statutes, making general hazing a second-degree misdemeanor and, if the infraction involves drugs or alcohol, a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies in Ohio can carry sentences of nine to 36 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Second-degree misdemeanors typically result in a 60-day jail sentence and up to $500 in fines. 

Failing to report a hazing offense involving physical harm will now result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge. The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor can result in a 180-day jail sentence and up to $1,000 in fines.   

Ultimately, institutions of education of all types should promptly implement a compliant anti-hazing policy, compliant hazing reporting mechanisms, compliant student educational programs, and conduct appropriate training to avoid liability under Collin’s Law.

If you would like a copy of Collin’s Law, have any questions relating to Collin’s Law, or have any questions regarding Education Law in general, please feel free to contact any one of our Education Law Practice Group Members.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.  THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT

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