img-Jordan-s-Bill-would-tighten-rules-around-hazing-bullyingAs we’ve noted previously, “not all assault is hazing, but make no mistake, assault is one of the many weapons used in the hazing arsenal.” In the wake of the Sayreville hazing incident, however, some commentators failed to see the connection, dismissing hazing as harmless pranks and antics. Therefore, we are incredibly supportive of the 30 Vermont lawmakers who recently co-sponsored legislation that recognizes the link between hazing and sexual assault and seeks to strengthen Vermont’s existing hazing law.

According to Mike Donoghue of The Burlington Free Press, on Tuesday, February 2nd, the Vermont House of Representatives Human Services Committee received a briefing on a new anti-hazing bill. The bill is entitled the “Jordan Preavy Bill”, named for Milton High School student-athlete Jordan Preavy who experienced horrific, humiliating hazing as a new member of the high school football team in 2011. According to the Chittenden County Vermont Unit for Special Investigations, Preavy was held down by his teammates and sexually assaulted with a broomstick. Tragically, Jordan committed suicide in August of 2012. At the time of his death, Jordan’s family was yet to learn about the hazing incident and now believes that the emotional scars played a role in his decision to take his life.

Seeking to strengthen the existing Vermont hazing law, the “Jordan Preavy Bill” would make the prompt reporting of child abuse and sexualized hazing mandatory for school administrators, teachers, and other school employees. These individuals would have to notify both the police and the Vermont Department for Children and Families within 24 hours of learning about a hazing incident. As Donoghue notes, “Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan has said repeatedly the current reporting law is poorly worded and fails to ensure children can be properly protected. Donovan said he believes he could not file criminal charges against any Milton School officials for failure to report the misconduct under the current law.” While the debate about who is and isn’t a mandatory reporter remains ongoing, the Preavy family has been an advocate for having coaches and other members of the athletic department included amongst the list of those who must report such incidents.