Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law Wednesday that expands the state’s anti-hazing regulations to include elementary, middle, and high schools rather than just post-secondary institutions.
The new law came about in part due to two Cambridge, Neb., high school upperclassmen, who reportedly hazed younger students at a wrestling camp last summer. According to Nicholas Bergin, of the Lincoln Journal Star, the “older boys placed doughnuts on their genitals and made the younger ones eat the doughnuts while others watched.”
At the time, Adams County Attorney Donna Fegler Daiss said the two boys would not be charged because of the limitations of the state anti-hazing law, which only included post-secondary institutions.
“If it were not because of, in my opinion, a defect in the statute that limits it to post-secondary institutions, this would be hazing 100 percent,” she told Bergin. “If the law doesn’t make it a crime, it’s not a crime. You can’t just charge something because you think their behavior is incorrect.”
In February, however, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office filed juvenile petitions against the two upperclassmen, per Bergin, charging them with felony child abuse. Both teens have entered pleas of denial, which is the juvenile equivalent of a “not guilty” plea, according to Megan Johnson of NTV. Their next court dates are in July, per NBC Nebraska.
Under the new law, local prosecutors will no longer have to weigh whether charges will stick following a hazing incident at non-post-secondary institutions. The law includes “whipping, beating, branding, an act of sexual penetration, and an exposure of the genitals of the body done with intent to affront or alarm any person” among its definition of hazing.
Under the law, hazing is defined as a Class II misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.