Ohio passes anti-hazing law in honor of deceased college student
Ohio’s state legislature has unanimously passed a bill expanding the definition of hazing and increasing penalties for the practice in memory of an 18-year-old college student who died during a 2018 hazing incident at Ohio University.
Senate Bill 126, also known as Collin’s Law, passed the House on Friday after being approved by the Senate earlier this month.
According to a summary of the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) next week, the bill expands the definition of hazing to include “any act to continue or reinstate membership in or affiliation with any student or other organization.”
It also specifies that hazing may include “coercing another to consume alcohol or a drug of abuse” in addition to the current standard for criminal hazing that includes the presence of a “substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.”
The bill also elevates the penalty for existing prohibitions against hazing in the state to a second-degree misdemeanor, according to the legislation’s summary.
Once the bill is signed into law, individuals can also be punished for “recklessly participating” or “permitting” the forced consumption of alcohol or drugs “resulting in serious physical harm to another.”
Parents or guardians who permit hazing activities may also be punished under the law.
Violations of the new additional prohibitions under Collin’s Law will be considered a third-degree felony, according to the summary.
The bill is named after Collin Wiant, whose hazing death prompted a wave of national attention and condemnation of the practice of hazing.
Officials said that Wiant had died from asphyxiation after inhaling nitrous oxide, also known as a “whippit,” during a Sigma Pi fraternity party at an off-campus Ohio University residence.
The Sigma Pi chapter has since been expelled from the school.
Local NBC affiliate WCMH reporter Adrienne Robbins tweeted a photo Friday of Wiant’s mother, Kathleen Wiant, in attendance at the Ohio state House, looking down from the gallery on lawmakers as they voted to pass the bill.
— Adrienne Robbins (@ARobbinsTV) June 25, 2021
The recent push for the legislation was spurred by the March hazing death of 20-year-old Stone Foltz at Bowling Green State University.
Foltz was allegedly forced to drink a large amount of alcohol during a fraternity hazing ritual at Bowling Green’s chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, which has since been stripped of its status as a student organization at the university.
Foltz family attorneys Rex Elliott and Sean Alto in a statement to The Hill last month called on the Ohio legislature to “immediately [take] steps to pass Collin’s Law to make transparency and consequences clear for parents and their children in the state of Ohio.”
“No other parent should have to relive their worst nightmare in a court of law,” they added at the time.
Seven men indicted in Foltz’s hazing death pleaded not guilty last month to several charges, including first-degree felony manslaughter, reckless homicide and hazing.