Bill to Make Hazing a Felony in Kentucky Passes Major Hurdle
When I was much younger and then later in college, I was under the assumption that "hazing" was simply "playing a prank." How naïve I was...OR maybe because we had no Internet and, therefore, no social media, we just didn't hear about incidents that rose far above the level of just a "prank."
Basketball Program Shuts Down Due to Hazing Incident
I am a huge college basketball fan and follow it religiously. And I don't think it's bragging to say I know a great deal about many teams that the casual observer would know nothing about. In this instance, I'm talking about the New Mexico State Aggies. I have several cousins who attended this Las Cruces university, so I follow it with only a little less fervor than I do our teams here in Kentucky. It's a quality mid-major program that, in 2022, scored its first NCAA Tournament win in nearly 30 years. They've made 26 tournament appearances and have a banner hanging in their gym to commemorate their 1970 Final Four appearance.
So it's a big deal that the program shut down its season last week amid one of the nastiest scandals ever attached to a college basketball team. And hazing is at the heart of it.
ESPN obtained a report from the NMSU campus police citing three players for "false imprisonment, harassment and counts of criminal sexual contact against a teammate." It's a grisly turn of events that has also led to the dismissal of the team's head coach.
And while crimes were committed and will be dealt with accordingly, there IS no hazing law in New Mexico.
Bill to Make Hazing a Felony Passes a Major Hurdle in KY
But there soon could be in Kentucky, if a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Mills (R-Henderson) makes it all the way to the finish line.
How Lofton's Law Will Define Hazing
Senate Bill 9, named "Lofton's Law" after a UK student who died in 2021 as a result of a hazing incident, would make hazing a felony. The bill defines "hazing" in six components:
Actions which cause, coerce, or force a minor or a student to: (a) Violate federal or state criminal law; (b) Consume any food, liquid, alcoholic liquid, drug, tobacco product, or other controlled substance which subjects the minor or student to a risk of mental harm or physical injury; (c) Endure brutality of a physical nature, including whipping, beating or paddling, branding, or exposure to the elements; (d) Endure brutality of a mental nature, including personal servitude, sleep deprivation, or circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial mental distress; (e) Endure brutality of a sexual nature; or (f) Endure any other activity that creates a reasonable likelihood of mental harm or physical injury to the minor or student.
Now that Lofton's Law has passed the Kentucky Senate Judiciary Committee, it will now need to pass the KY House and Senate before Governor Beshear can sign it into law.