At least four members of the Hamilton High School Football team in Chandler, Arizona have been arrested for a variety of offenses allegedly committed against other students. Police say the arrests stem from what some are calling “locker room” behavior, but others – including the police – says the allegations are more serious than that, and include sexual assault and other serious crimes.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the situation is how the news headlines read. Almost without exception, they refer to arrests for “hazing.” This is, however, a misnomer.
What is “Hazing” in Arizona?
Hazing is defined in Title 15 of the Education Code. The statute, A.R.S. 15-2301C2, says that hazing consists of an act that is (a) knowing, intentional or reckless, (b) that is committed by a student, (c) in connection with an initiation, or maintaining membership in an organization affiliated with a school, (d) that poses a substantial risk of, or that causes, injury, harm or degradation. This, however, is not part of the Criminal Code, and there are no criminal penalties, or – despite the headlines we referred to earlier – criminal charges for hazing.
Calling the allegations in this case “hazing,” would be tantamount to calling the 9/11 bombing a case of political mischief. But even the Chandler Unified School District, in its official statement concerning the arrests, talks only about “hazing allegations,” with no mention of a specific criminal charges. In fact, the charges include allegations that the initiation of freshman football players involved forced anal penetration and other assaults. Those who have been arrested are now facing a number of felonies, allegedly committed between January 2015 and early 2017, including aggravated assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, and child molestation. It is unclear at this point whether any of the juveniles who have been arrested will be charged as adults. The police have indicated that there may be additional arrests in the case.
We should emphasize, as is always the case when someone is charged with a crime, that all the suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
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