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Newsletter > September 2021 > "Collin’s Law: What it Means For Fraternal Organizations in Ohio"
Collin’s Law: What it Means For Fraternal Organizations in Ohio
Ilana Linder, Fraternal Law Partners, Ilana.Linder@manleyburke.com
On July 6, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law, “Collin’s Law: The Ohio Anti-Hazing Act” (“Collin’s Law”). While Ohio already had in place an anti-hazing statute (Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.31), Collin’s Law significantly alters that existing statute, most notably by expanding the scope of the anti-hazing regulations in both application and definition. Moreover, Collin’s Law introduces new hazing-related provisions that previously did not exist. These new provisions impose reporting requirements (for known hazing activities) and also require certain institutions to ensure anti-hazing policies exist and that detailed hazing-related records are maintained. What follows is a brief summary of the various changes to the Ohio hazing law(s) that are most relevant to fraternal organizations.
As indicated in the Table below, there are important changes related to: (1) how hazing is defined, (2) to whom the hazing prohibitions apply, (3) the potential sanctions that could be imposed for violating the anti-hazing law, and (4) whether anyone has an affirmative duty to report known instances of hazing.
The prior anti-hazing statute limited the definition of “hazing” to just acts or coercive behavior that caused or created a substantial risk of causing mental/physical harm when required/engaged in as part of the initiation process to become a member of an organization. Collin’s Law retains this same prohibition against hazing as part of the initiation process, but also extends the prohibition to the same types of acts/behaviors required for someone to maintain or reinstatehis membership in an organization. In other words, Collin’s Law expands the definition of hazing to include both pre- and post-initiation actions Additionally, the Code now explicitly states that “coercing another to consume alcohol or a drug of abuse” constitutes hazing.
Both the prior and new versions of this provision indicate that no one is permitted to recklessly participate in the hazing of another person, and that school administrators, employees, and faculty members are further prohibited from recklessly permitting the hazing of another person. However, Collin’s Law expands the scope of the prohibition of “recklessly permitting hazing to occur” to include more categories of people/organizations to which it applies. Specifically, under the new version, in addition to the types of people already listed, teachers, consultants, alumnus, and other volunteers of an organization may not recklessly permit the hazing of anyone who is associated with that organization. “Organization” is defined to specifically include a “national or international organization with which a fraternity or sorority is affiliated.” Stated differently, a fraternity or sorority, along with any volunteers, employees, or alums associated with that fraternal entity, may not recklessly allow any hazing to occur.
If a person or organization is found responsible for either participating in or permitting hazing to occur, the maximum sanctions that can be imposed now vary depending on whether the hazing involved any alcohol or abusive drugs, ranging from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Previously, there was no distinction between hazing involving drugs/alcohol and other types of hazing for sanctioning purposes, and the maximum sanction for hazing was only a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
Perhaps the most significant change in Ohio’s anti-hazing law that fraternal organizations need to be aware of is the implementation of a new reporting requirement for any known hazing activities. While there was no requirement, let alone potential sanction, for someone knowing about hazing but not alerting the authorities in the past, Collin’s Law changes that. Indeed, any administrator, employee, faculty member, teacher, consultant, alumnus, or volunteer of any organization, including both educational institutions and fraternal organizations, who, while acting in her official and professional capacity, recklessly fails to report her knowledge of hazing to a law enforcement agency, violates the new law.
If no serious physical injuries result from the unreported hazing, then a violation of this new reporting obligation is deemed a fourth-degree misdemeanor. However, if the hazing does result in some serious physical injury, the failure to report knowledge of that hazing constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor.
To summarize, Collin’s Law expands both the definition and scope of the prohibition against engaging in or permitting the hazing of another person. Additionally, Collin’s Law creates a new reporting requirement for instances of known hazing. For fraternal organizations, this means that the organizations and their agents, employees, alums, and volunteers cannot engage in or permit hazing for either initiation or membership renewal/reinstatement purposes, and must immediately report to law enforcement any known instances of hazing.
This begs the question of how a national organization that receives a “tip” about potential hazing is supposed to respond. Should every tip be immediately reported to the police? Given the definition of “knowledge,” reporting is only required when the hazing circumstances described “probably exist.” In other words, unless there is some reason to believe that a report of hazing has some legitimacy to it, there is likely no duty to notify the police of every single allegation of hazing a national organization hears about. However, there does appear to be an affirmative duty for anyone (who falls into one of the reporting categories described above) who hears about potential hazing to take the report seriously and do some investigation to determine whether it is a credible report. Finally, as with most things in life, when in doubt, it is best to error on the side of caution.
|Definition of Hazing||Prohibited Actions (Hazing)||Potential Sanctions (Hazing)||Prohibited Actions (Reporting)||Potential Sanctions (Reporting)|
|Old Law||Any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person||1) Recklessly participating in the hazing of another person
Applies to: EveryoneAND2) Recklessly permitting the hazing of any person
Applies to: An administrator, employee, or faculty member
|Fourth Degree Misdemeanor
Max Fine: $250
Max Jail Time: 30 Days
|New Law||Any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization OR ANY ACT TO CONTINUE OR REINSTATE MEMBERSHIP IN OR AFFILIATION WITH ANY STUDENT OR OTHER ORGANIZATION that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person, INCLUDING COERCING ANOTHER TO CONSUME ALCOHOL OR A DRUG OF ABUSE||1) Recklessly participating in the hazing of another person
Applies to: EveryoneAND2) Recklessly permitting the hazing of any person
Applies to: An administrator, employee, or faculty member, TEACHER, CONSULTANT, ALUMNUS, OR OTHER VOLUNTEER OF ANY ORGANIZATION
|If NO alcohol/drugs involved:
Second Degree Misdemeanor
Max Fine: $750
Max Jail Time: 90 DaysIf alcohol/drugs involved:
Third Degree Felony
Max Fine: $10,000
Max Jail Time: 3 Years
|1) Recklessly failing to immediately report to a law enforcement agency any known hazing
Applies to: An administrator, employee, faculty member, teacher, consultant, alumnus, or volunteer of any organization who is acting in an official and professional capacity
|If NO serious physical injury involved:
Fourth Degree Misdemeanor
Max Fine: $250
Max Jail Time: 30 DaysIf serious physical injury involved:
First Degree Misdemeanor
Max Fine: $1,000
Max Jail Time: 180 Days
 There are also new requirements that: (1) the chancellor of higher education develop a statewide educational plan for preventing hazing at colleges/universities (e.g. create a model anti-hazing policy); and (2) each higher education institution create an anti-hazing policy that may apply to both on- and off-campus hazing, and also maintain a report of all violations of that policy. See R.C. §§ 3333.0417, 3345.19.
 Under Ohio law, “a person acts recklessly when, with heedless indifference to the consequences, the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person’s conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature.” R.C. § 2901.22(C).
 Pursuant to R.C. Section 2901.22(B), “a person has knowledge of circumstances when the person is aware that such circumstances probably exist. When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person subjectively believes that there is a high probability of its existence and fails to make inquiry or acts with a conscious purpose to avoid learning the fact.”