Hazing And Bullying In Michigan Schools
Hazing and bullying in high schools and on college campuses in Michigan is a major concern. Although there have been positive steps in limiting these actions overall, there are still specific instances that have garnered statewide and even national attention. Being charged with a crime of hazing or bullying can be extremely serious. Not only can there be state criminal charges, Title IX of federal law comes into play
If you have been arrested or think you might be arrested due to an allegation of hazing and/or bullying in college or in high school, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer specializing in school related offenses. You need to take this seriously because a conviction of this sort can have lifelong consequences.
What Is Hazing?
The Michigan Penal Code Section 750.411t defines hazing as an intentional, knowing, or reckless act by a person acting alone or acting with others that is directed against an individual, and that the person knew or should have known endangers the physical health or safety of the individual. It is done for the purpose of pledging to be initiated into, affiliating with, participating in, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization. Hazing does not just have to be associated with colleges and fraternities and sororities. The law can apply to clubs, groups, and other activities outside of school or even in high schools. The following actions may be considered “hazing” under Section 750.411t:
- Physical brutality, such as whippings or beatings;
- Physical activity, such as deprivation or exposure to elements;
- Confinement to small spaces;
- Calisthenic exercises and pushups;
- Consumption of some product, such as being forced to consume large amounts of food or alcohol; or
- Forcing a student to commit a crime or deface property.
What Is Bullying?
There are many laws that cover the crime of bullying or some aspect of it. The main law covering bullying in Michigan schools is called the Matt Epling Safe School Law (Michigan Penal Code 380.1310b). Bullying under this law involves “any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, including, but not limited to, cyberbullying, that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following:”
- Substantially interfering with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of 1 or more pupils;
- Adversely affecting the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district’s or public school’s educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm or by causing substantial emotional distress;
- Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil’s physical or mental health; or
- Causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.
There is a separate Michigan Cyberbullying Law at Michigan Penal Code Section 380.1310b that makes it a crime for the above actions of bullying to be done through electronic and digital means. The law provides for the following penalties:
- A misdemeanor crime;
- Up to 93 days in jail;
- A fine of up to $500.
The crime of cyberbullying can be bumped up to a felony if there was found to be a “pattern of repeated harassment”. The felony charge carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison. If cyberbullying is the cause of a person’s death, a person can be punished by up to ten years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
How Does Title IX Affect Bullying, Hazing, and Cyberbullying In Michigan?
Title IX is a Federal law that protects students with many aspects of education, but specifically protects against many forms of harassment, including hazing and bullying. Many of the actions that are used in hazing rituals and with bullying or cyberbullying in the educational setting are of a sexual nature. This is illegal under Title IX.
A Title IX violation can result in very harsh sanctions for the student, the administrators, and the school. For example, a student can be expelled from the institution if they are found guilty of a Title IX violation. However, the law allows you a right to challenge any allegations of hazing, bullying, or cyberbullying. Among the potential sanctions you could face with a Title IX violation, you could be:
- Suspended or expelled;
- Ineligible for scholarships;
- Prohibited from participating in athletics;
- Ineligible for acceptance at other colleges or universities;
- Subject to a criminal investigation;
- Designated a sex offender.
Having the right lawyers on your side when faced with these kinds of criminal charges and sanctions is the best course of action. These cases can become quite complicated. The more experienced your lawyer, the better. You need a lawyer who understands all of the ramifications of being charged with the crime of hazing, bullying, or a Title IX violation. In our current culture, these charges, even if you were proven innocent later on, could potentially follow you for years.
Michigan Hazing Lawyers
If you have been charged with hazing, bullying or other incidents, then you should first consult with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney. It is critical that you talk to an attorney before speaking with the police in order to protect your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly. Fighting a hazing or bullying charge is possible, and there are countless individuals who have beat this charge. Still, the odds are stacked heavily against you if you do not retain the services of an attorney.
Remember that the prosecutor’s main goal is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offense. If you do not have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side, you could really damage your case.
The attorneys at George Law have deep experience protecting the rights of those who are accused of hazing and bullying offenses. If you have been charged criminally in Michigan, contact us for a free consultation.
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