MASSACHUSETTS COURT UPHOLDS STUDENTS' SUSPENSIONS FOR HAZING INCIDENT
A Massachusetts Superior Court recently declined to remove the suspensions from the school records of two students who were disciplined as a result of a highly publicized hazing incident involving Andover High School basketball players.
In November of 2011, the Andover School District learned that two students were coerced into participating in one of three humiliating sexual tasks in order to avoid severe beatings while the students were attending an off-site basketball camp in July of 2011. The Interim Principal of Andover High School conducted an investigation of the allegations and ultimately disciplined seven students; two ringleaders were expelled and five others were suspended from school and athletic activities.
Two of the suspended students filed suit against the School District seeking to have their 3-day suspensions removed from their school records. The students claimed that they were merely bystanders to the humiliating activities and were unaware that they should report the incidents to school officials. They also noted that the incidents occurred before either of them started classes at Andover High School.
The District argued that although the camp was not a school-sponsored event, it was closely tied to the School's basketball program. The District also had a clear anti-hazing policy and anti-bullying policy that were published in its student handbook.
The case serves as a reminder that all secondary schools, both public and private, must, as a matter of state law, adopt an anti-hazing policy as part of their disciplinary policies and distribute copies of the anti-hazing law to all students. We recommend that school discipline codes and student handbooks, as well as any other policies addressing hazing, be reviewed to ensure legal compliance with respect to preventing and addressing hazing.