Ohio Passes Sweeping Anti-Hazing Law Aimed at Colleges and Universities

By: Dallas F. Kratzer III, Nelva J. Smith

Published: July 14, 2021

In the wake of hazing-related deaths at two Ohio universities, Governor Mike DeWine signed Collin’s Law: The Ohio Anti-Hazing Act on July 6, 2021. That law—which goes into effect in early October and is named after Collin Wiant, a student who died during his freshman year at Ohio University—increases penalties for hazing and requires institutions of higher education to take efforts aimed to prevent hazing, among other things.

Hazing Crimes

Collin’s Law first expands the definition of “hazing” supplied by section 2903.31 of the Ohio Revised Code to include “coercing another to consume alcohol or a drug of abuse.” It then increases the penalties for hazing. Previously, hazing was a fourth-degree misdemeanor; now it is a second-degree misdemeanor or, in cases involving

“coerced consumption,” a third-degree felony. It also imposes criminal liability on schools and certain individuals who fail to report hazing to law enforcement. The failure to report is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, but that increases to a first-degree misdemeanor if the hazing results in serious physical harm.

Statewide Educational Plan

Collin’s Law also requires the Department of Higher Education to develop a statewide plan to prevent hazing at institutions of higher education. That plan must include a model anti-hazing policy and guidelines for anti-hazing education and training. On the day Governor DeWine signed Collin’s Law, The Columbus Dispatch reported that the department “has already begun working with university presidents to create a statewide anti-hazing plan, as well as hazing awareness and prevention trainings.”

Requirements of Institutions of Higher Education

Finally, Collin’s Law requires institutions of higher education to take additional anti-hazing measures. To start, each institution must develop an anti-hazing policy prohibiting its students and individuals associated with sanctioned organizations—including fraternities, sororities, and athletic teams—from engaging in hazing. That policy must include rules prohibiting hazing, enforcement mechanisms, and penalties, including levying fines, withholding diplomas or transcripts, revoking permission to operate on campus, and imposing probation, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion. The law also includes provisions requiring each institution to distribute its policy and, beginning with the 2022–2023 school year, to maintain a report of violations of its policy. Lastly, the law mandates that each institution provide anti-hazing educational programs to its students and anti-hazing training to staff and volunteers.

Put simply, Collin’s Law requires institutions of higher education to take further efforts to promote anti-hazing policies and expands criminal liability for hazing. While that law does not go into effect until October, institutions of higher education should begin working toward compliance with these new requirements before the new school year begins.

If your institution needs assistance with any questions regarding Collin’s Law, including assistance with drafting a compliant anti-hazing policy, please contact the Higher Education Team at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.

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