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Newsletter > March 2023 > "Anti-Hazing Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature in Kentucky"
Anti-Hazing Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature in Kentucky
Ilana Linder, Fraternal Law Partners, Ilana.Linder@manleyburke.com
Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood, a freshman at the University of Kentucky (“University”), died in 2021. Although his death was originally suspected to be the result of hazing, the University eventually released a report, concluding, in part, that there was no “physical coercion or forced drinking associated with Hazelwood’s death.”  The University did, however, find that the local chapter of the FarmHouse Fraternity had been engaging in hazing activities throughout the semester. Consequently, Farmhouse revoked the chapter’s charter.
On March 16, 2023, Kentucky lawmakers passed Senate Bill 9, which, if signed into law by Governor Andy Beshear, will be known as “Lofton’s Law” and will criminalize hazing in the state.
Lofton’s Law defines hazing as forcing or coercing a minor or student to do any of the following that are part of the recruitment, initiation into, affiliation with, or enhancement/maintenance of membership/status in an organization:
- Violate federal or state criminal law;
- Consume any food, liquid, or other substance that subjects the person to risk of serious physical injury;
- Endure physical or sexual brutality; or
- Endure any other activity that creates a reasonable likelihood of serious physical injury to the person.
Excluded from the Act’s definition is conduct causing mental or emotional harm to others. Additionally, the Act provides that any act that was “part of reasonable and customary (a) interscholastic or intercollegiate athletic practices, competitions, or events; (b) law enforcement training; or (c) military training” will be considered a defense to hazing. Curiously, the first version of the Act specified that consent was not a viable hazing defense, but that language was removed in the version that has now been sent to Governor Beshear.
Under the Act, hazing will be considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one (1) year in jail, when the person acts recklessly. However, if the hazing is intentional or wanton and results in death or serious physical injury, it would constitute a felony, sanctionable by up to five (5) years in prison.
Unlike Ohio’s Collin’s Law, which imposes a mandatory reporting requirement, Kentucky’s proposed Lofton’s Law does not also criminalize a person’s failure to report hazing.
 Jay Blanton, Investigation Reports Released in Death of UK Student Lofton Hazelwood, Univ. of Ky. (Dec. 22,2021),https://uknow.uky.edu/campus-news/investigation-reports-released-death-uk-student-lofton-hazelwood.
 S.B. 9, 2023 Reg. Sess. (Ky. 2023).