A new hazing policy, one of the first of its kind in public schools, will go into effect Nov. 1 in Davis School District.
The Davis Board of Education gave the policy final approval Tuesday. Athletes and other students participating in extracurricular activities will be required to sign a form agreeing to abide by the policy.Nevertheless, all students, whether they sign the form or not, will be bound by the policy.
Though the prohibited behavior is already covered under the district's safe schools and sexual harassment policies, compliance officer David Doty said a recent rise in hazing incidents along the Wasatch Front and nationwide spurred Davis administrators to address hazing on its own.
"(The word) `hazing,' unfortunately, gets used by people to downplay behavior that's assaultive," he said.
Doty and Assistant Superintendent Darrell White based the policy on similar documents used by colleges and universities, many of which use them to control fraternity beer busts that get out of hand. Davis is, however, one of the first public school districts nationwide to adopt a formal hazing policy. (Granite School District has an "administrative memorandum" reminding staffers of the illegality of hazing.)
The Davis policy defines hazing as action causing harassment, bodily danger, serious mental or emotional harm, extreme embarrassment or personal degradation. It cites copious examples including beating, personal servitude, lewd behavior involving nudity, and forcing students to eat or drink alcohol or unusual foods.
Students and school employees alike are required to report hazing if they know about it.
Davis is ahead of the game in this area. Doug Bates, attorney for the Utah State Office of Education, has drafted legislation that would broaden the state criminal code to update "hazing" references. The legislation, while not in its final version, says the state school board may, and local school boards shall, develop formal hazing policies.
The existing state hazing law narrowly defines hazing in an "initiation" context. Based on Utah's history with locker room hazing incidents, this definition needs to be expanded, Bates said.
Like the Davis policy, the new statewide rules would prohibit things like indecent exposure, forced ingestion of any substance and forced restraint.
"I frankly think it's time," for such legislation, Doty said. "Obviously, it's not being addressed at the school level."
The Davis policy had been modified from the preliminary version approved two weeks ago to add further details and clarify that only extreme acts, as opposed to harmless pranks, are prohibited.
Nevertheless, the policy states that consent of the hazing victim is not a defense.
Deseret News staff writer Lucinda Dillon contributed to this report.