SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A lawmaker is pushing to make hazing a crime. The proposal at the Roundhouse would mean more serious penalties.
The legislator behind the bill says students from the University of New Mexico actually asked for it, and that New Mexico is one of only a handful of states across the country without a law against hazing.
In 2014, hazing landed two UNM soccer players in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. UNM suspended the coach and upperclassmen.
But one lawmaker thinks a bill to make hazing a misdemeanor would help put a stop to it in New Mexico schools.
“Having legislation that specifically uses the term, ‘hazing,’ gives an open awareness that you cannot do something that becomes detrimental,” said Rep. Sheryl Stapleton (D-Albuquerque).
The House Bill describes hazing as initiation into a group that “recklessly or intentionally endangers the health of a student,” including examples like “yelling, humiliating, harassing, belittling, cursing, sleep deprivation and forced calisthenics.”
Punishment could call for a $1,000 fine or less than a year in jail.
While UNM students KRQE News 13 spoke with agreed hazing is wrong, not everyone supported criminalizing it.
“I think ultimately it probably should not be a misdemeanor. And the main reason for that is because I think it’s something that we need to learn how to deal with it in the school system,” said UNM student Maxwell Reidys.
“I think it’s an issue,” said UNM Student Andrea Padilla. “I would make it a misdemeanor because students don’t think it’s anything. They just do it for fun. If there was some punishment to it, it would probably help stop the issue.”
The bill also specifies a crime for hazing that results in death, making it a fourth-degree felony, which comes with a maximum of a year and a half behind bars.
In 2013, two Raton High School basketball players got probation after they were accused of rubbing their clothed crotches on younger teammates’ faces.
Valencia High School football players also got probation for a hazing incident in 2010 when they sodomized another player.
In those cases, the hazing was classified as a battery charge.