The hazing-related death of a Florida A&M University student from Georgia has state lawmakers taking another look at the state’s hazing laws.
A bill under consideration in the General Assembly would ban anyone convicted of hazing from enrolling at any Georgia school, which according to state law means any college, university, or K-12 school. The bill will get its first hearing in the House Education Subcommittee on Academic Support Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) said he believes in the zero-tolerance approach, but acknowledged he might have to ease that tough stance.
“I doubt very seriously that I could get that strict of a law passed,” Wilkinson said. “But you don’t go in weak. You go in as strong as you can, and you go in with what you think is right.”
Wilkinson said other lawmakers have suggested his total ban is too strict, but have suggested a semester suspension for a first offense with a full ban after a second offense.
He said he would be open to that compromise and said the bill at least started the debate.
“You know, my goal was to get people talking about this and realizing that it’s still a problem, and it’s not so much in fraternities and sororities as in other organizations,” Wilkinson said.
Hazing that endangers a student’s health is a misdemeanor in Georgia, punishable by up to a year in prison and up a $5,000 fine. It is unclear if anyone has ever been tried and convicted under that statute.
Wilkinson first introduced the bill in April, before FAMU student Robert Champion died in November in what officials call a hazing-related incident.