Massuchetts Court Sends Strong Anti-Hazing Message to Student Athletes

Written by Shani K. Whisonant, Esquire:

A Massachusetts superior court judge recently refused to overturn suspensions and expulsions of seven student-athletes at Andover High School who were involved in a hazing incident at Hoop Mountain Basketball Camp held at Stonehill College in 2011. The victims – so-called “newcomers” to the basketball program – were forced to engage in humiliating sexual tasks and endure severe beatings at the hands of more senior members of the program. One of the team captains taped some of the hazing incidents with a Smartphone.

Two of the suspended students, claiming to be bystanders to the hazing, filed suit against the school system, seeking to have their suspensions overturned. The two students alleged that the hazing occurred before they started high school classes at Andover High School, that they were unaware of their obligation to report the hazing incidents to school authorities, and that they were threatened on Facebook and by text to ensure their silence.

The Court was not sympathetic to the students’ excuse. Although the incident occurred during non-instructional time and off of school property, the Court found that there existed enough of a nexus between the conduct at the camp and the Andover High School basketball program at the school to uphold the suspensions and expulsions. The incidents violated both the school hazing policy and the Massachusetts anti-hazing law, which carries a penalty of $3,000.00 and/or a year in jail for perpetrators, and a $1,000.00 fine for witnesses. Maryland law also criminalizes hazing; perpetrators may be imprisoned for six months and may face a $500.00 fine.