Washington State Hazing Legislation HB 1751: Sam’s Law

Washington State Hazing Legislation HB 1751: Sam’s Law
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When he signed Washington State’s comprehensive hazing bill (HB 1751) on March 30, 2022, Governor Inslee said “This bill is a solemn reminder that we can and will do more to educate students on the dangers of hazing.” The bill is named “Sam’s Law” for Sam Martinez who died from alcohol poisoning after a 2019 fraternity event. 

Below is a summary of Sam’s Law, which applies to both public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs), and requires hazing awareness and prevention education for students, as well as employees. 

Hazing Awareness and Prevention Programs

Beginning with the 2022 fall term, Sam’s Law requires that each Washington IHE must provide hazing awareness and prevention education either in person or electronically to students and employees, including student employees, who have direct ongoing contact with students.

 

Student Education

Washington’s new hazing law provides that hazing awareness and prevention education must be provided to all students, be part of new student orientation programs, and cover:

  • hazing awareness, prevention, and intervention;
  • the signs and dangers of hazing; and
  • institutional prohibition of and policies on hazing.

This law also provides amnesty to anyone who makes a good faith report after witnessing hazing or receiving information that a hazing occurred or will occur, protecting them against sanctions or punishment for related hazing violations. 

Note: In addition to providing student hazing awareness and prevention education programs, the law provides that:

  • a statement on the institution’s anti-hazing policy and the dangers of hazing must be provided either electronically or in hard copy form to student organizations, athletic teams, and living groups; and 
  • a copy of the student hazing education program must also be posted on the IHE’s public website for parents, legal guardians, and volunteers to view. 

 

Employee Education

Hazing awareness and prevention education is also required for an institution’s employees (except for medical staff and confidential employees)—including student employees—who receive wages and have direct ongoing contact with students in a supervisory role or position of authority. This employee training must be provided to: 

  • all employees at the beginning of each academic year, and 
  • new employees at the beginning of each academic term.

And the training must cover the:

  • signs and dangers of hazing, and
  • institution’s prohibition on hazing.

 

Employee Reporting Obligation

Sam’s Law also requires an institution’s employees, student employees, and volunteers to report to a designated authority—“at the first opportunity to do so”—when they have reasonable cause to believe that hazing has occurred or is planned, based on something they observed or credible information they received in the course of their employment or volunteer service.

Expanded Definition of Hazing

Effective June 9, 2022, HB 1751 expands the statutory definition of “hazing” to include:

  • recruitment, pledging, admission into, or affiliation with student organizations, which specifically includes athletic teams; and
  • acts that are likely to cause harm to someone, including consumption of alcohol, drugs, or other substances that risk physical, psychological, or emotional harm, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.

Sam’s Law also requires each IHE to:

  • Prohibit hazing, whether it occurs on campus or off campus.
  • Establish a committee to promote and address hazing prevention with a designated chairperson appointed by the IHE’s president, and a minimum of six members that include students, faculty or staff, and a parent or legal guardian of a student enrolled at the institution.
  • Maintain and publicly report on its website actual findings of violations committed by, and sanctions imposed against, a student organization, athletic team, or student living group that are related to:
    • the school’s code of conduct or anti-hazing policies; or 
    • state or federal offenses involving hazing, alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, or physical assault.

Note: Under existing law, IHEs are also required to adopt rules providing sanctions for conduct associated with initiation into a student organization or living group that are not considered hazing, such as embarrassment, ridicule, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, or personal humiliation.

Fraternity and Sorority Investigations

If a fraternity or sorority organization investigates hazing or other activity that includes an element of hazing (such as furnishing alcohol to minors), the organization must notify the IHE of its investigation and provide a copy of the full findings report to the IHE’s student conduct office. 

In addition, beginning in the 2022 fall academic term, fraternity and sorority chapters seeking to obtain or maintain registration with an IHE must show that the landing pages of websites owned or maintained by the local chapter include all violations in the previous five years of:

  • anti-hazing policies; 
  • the IHE’s code of conduct; and 
  • state or federal laws relating to hazing, alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, or physical assault.

Failure to comply with these requirements will result in automatic loss of recognition until the organization complies.

Rep. Tana Senn (D-Bellevue), a sponsor of Sam’s Law, said education and intervention are keys to keeping students safe, and this new law is centered on educating students and employees how to recognize and intervene in situations to prevent hazing before it happens. Sam’s parents were strong advocates for this legislation to prevent similar tragedies and, while a separate bill to increase the penalties and statute of limitations for hazing did not pass this session, they will continue to advocate for accountability and to keep students safe because that is “what Sam would’ve wanted us to do.” 

How Vector Solutions Can Help

Our Hazing Prevention Course was developed to help colleges and universities better educate students on how to break the cycle of hazing in Greek life, athletic teams, and other clubs and organizations on campus.

Through peer presenters, student testimonials, and scenarios, students will learn the following from this course: the research-verified truth that hazing is not effective, it harms rather than helps organizations, how to avoid “group think,” and what to do if they are being hazed.

Hazing_Prevention_Students

Contact us for more information

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