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SB 38 Bolsters Texas Anti-Hazing Law

The deadly practice of hazing will not be tolerated in Texas, and anyone who hazes others will be held accountable. That’s the message a new Texas law is now sending to students, families, and higher education institutions across the state.

Co-authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), this new anti-hazing law, Senate Bill (SB) 38, went into effect on September 1st. It marks a resounding victory in a 14-year effort to strengthen the existing Texas hazing law, which has been on the books since 1987 and has been widely criticized for being too vague. In fact, not one person has ever been prosecuted under the 1987 Texas anti-hazing law.

With SB 38 now in effect, however, many hope that:

  • The dangerous practice of hazing will end.
  • Those who violate the law and continue to haze others will be held accountable.
  • No more lives have to be lost to hazing.

Provisions of the New Texas Anti-Hazing Law

Taking a hard stance against hazing, the new law contains provisions that include (and aren’t limited to):

  • Expanding the definition of hazing: Under the new law, hazing is now defined as any act that “involves coercing a student to consume a drug, an alcoholic beverage, or liquor in an amount that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the student is intoxicated.”
  • Providing immunity to those who report hazing: Anyone who voluntarily reports an act of hazing will receive immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. Immunity will only be granted if the person who has reported the act of hazing was not the perpetrator of the incident and has reported the incident as an act of good faith and before being contacted by law enforcement or campus authorities.
  • Strengthening hazing reporting requirements: Higher education institutions in Texas will now have to issue detailed hazing reports by the 14th day before classes start for the spring and fall semesters. These reports must include specifics about the nature of each hazing incident, the involved organizations, the disciplinary actions taken, and more.

The new Texas anti-hazing law will only apply to offenses committed on or after September 1, 2019.

Families’ Support Plays Key Role in Passing SB 38

Since 2005, Sen. Zaffirini has been working to pass a stronger anti-hazing law in Texas, with five similar bills failing to pass in the Texas Legislature over the past 14 years.

This time around, however, victims’ families played a key role in advocating for the new law and testifying at the Capitol. Sen. Zaffirini has credited this testimony as personifying “the suffering that is the result of lax laws and the legislature’s failure to resolve this problem.”

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