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Sheriff claims Nebraska hazing law only applies to college students

Moderator: The Nebraska hazing law applies to any person–only if they are college-age(????). Come on, journalists. If this is true, you have a much bigger story–an editorial commenting on a law that targets only certain people.

Related: See how the hazing law failed in Utah weeks ago. Related: See how a sexual assault charge against a wrestler during a hazing in South Carolina (near Hilton Head) wasn’t pursued by a sheriff for a similar reason several years ago.

See below for story and the law:

Nebraska Hazing Law

� 28-311.06. Hazing, defined; penalty

(1) For purposes of this section and section 28-311.07:

(a) Hazing shall mean any activity by which a person intentionally or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health or safety of an individual for the purpose of initiation into, admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership with any organization as defined in subdivision (1)(b) of this section. Such hazing activity shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced and prolonged calisthenics, prolonged exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug, or harmful substance not generally intended for human consumption, prolonged sleep deprivation, or any brutal treatment or the performance of any unlawful act which endangers the physical or mental health or safety of any person; and

(b) Organization shall mean an organization of student members operating under the sanction of a postsecondary educational institution but shall not include the alumni organization or any corporation which owns the house or real estate of such organization.

(2) It shall be unlawful to commit the offense of hazing. Any person who commits the offense of hazing shall be guilty of a Class II misdemeanor.

(3) Any organization as defined in subdivision (1)(b) of this section whose members commit the offense of hazing in violation of the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars.

No Charges Likely in Alleged Hazing

Posted: Aug 24, 2009 07:19 PM

Updated: Aug 24, 2009 07:19 PM

Under a graffiti covered bridge, freshman from St. Paul High School were taken, some against their will.

Sheriff Harold Schenck said initiation rituals have escalated, as upper classmen poured hot sauce, cat food, syrup, and vinegar on freshmen.

“Apparently this is something that’s ongoing and it has apparently involved most of the freshman class at St. Paul High School,” Schenck said.

School is where law enforcement wants the problem to be addressed. The sheriff said it’s not a matter for the courts, because it doesn’t meet the definition of hazing under Nebraska law.

“The statute refers to college age students,” he said.

St. Paul has a hazing policy. During a Friday night pep rally, before the trouble began, educators admonished kids to not to let things get out of hand.

Superintendent Doug Ackles said, “We warn our kids to behave, do the appropriate thing, not to damage other people’s property, to make good choices. We have many character development programs in school and once in a while kids make bad decisions.”

For a district recently honored by the governor and a district where voters approved a school bond, it’s disappointing to see the reputation tarnished.

Ackles said he was “disappointed in the image it creates and the reflection on school and community because that’s not the kind of school we are.”

Friday evening began at school with a community ice cream social. But administrators worry the night will be remembered for the way it ended.

Ackles said, “We’ll just have to prove our way out of this.”

Administrators met with police first thing Monday morning. The sheriff said he doesn’t think any charges will be filed. The punishment at school is uncertain, because policy appears to cover only incidents on campus.

Reporter’s Notes by Steve White:
The sheriff said about ten students were involved Friday night near the Loup River Bridge, south of St. Paul.

Ackles said he was especially disappointed and frustrated, since administrators had just reminded students to watch their behavior. The booster club held an ice cream social Friday night followed by a fall sport pep rally. Ackles said coaches likely warned their teams to behave as well.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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