A suburban lawmaker who sponsored anti-hazing legislation four years ago says allegations by a former Wheaton College football player show the law needs to be strengthened.
“We’ll have to make stronger laws with heavier punishments,” state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, said in an interview.
Moylan and some who work with young athletes say they’re dismayed by the number and scope of hazing cases even after a strong emphasis on prevention in recent years.
At Wheaton College, five football players face felony charges after being accused of abducting a freshman on the team, restraining him with duct tape, putting a pillow case over his head, suggesting he would be sexually violated and leaving him in a baseball field in March 2016.
While it’s the latest suburban hazing scandal, it’s far from the only one in recent years. Lake Zurich Unit District 95 faces a federal lawsuit in which it is accused of allowing hazing and bullying to occur in the high school football team locker room last year. In the past decade, hazing scandals have rocked Northern Illinois University, where a student died, as well as high schools in Crystal Lake and Des Plaines.
Despite new state laws and school-based anti-hazing initiatives during that time, Olen McGhee, a Mundelein-based trainer for high school and college athletes, said he believes hazing is worse than it was in the past.
“Core values aren’t the same anymore,” he said, and social media can make hazing or bullying seem more appealing to teens.
Moylan called it “ridiculous” that the March 2016 hazing at Wheaton only became public in recent days. Though it was reported to the college and to police at the time, the players remained on the team until last week.
Moylan’s bill, signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn in August 2013, created a new criminal offense for school officials who fail to report hazing that “he or she personally observes.” A separate law makes hazing a misdemeanor in Illinois, or a felony if it causes death or serious harm.
Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and a hazing expert, echoed Moylan’s argument that Illinois’s anti-hazing law isn’t strong enough. Nuwer wants Congress to pass the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing Act “calling for greater transparency and mandatory education” about hazing.