Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106

04/10/2013 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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Heard & Held
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                         HB 189-HAZING                                                                                      
9:37:14 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR GATTIS announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 189, "An Act relating to hazing."                                                                                
9:37:29 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE    JONATHAN     KREISS-TOMKINS,    Alaska    State                                                               
Legislature,  speaking as  the  sponsor of  HB  189, stated  that                                                               
HB 189 would define and add hazing  to the criminal code, as well                                                               
as add  hazing to school  district policies across Alaska.   This                                                               
bill  has been  modeled on  legislation that  exists in  44 other                                                               
states.   He said that  hazing is a  problem in high  schools and                                                               
school environments.   He explained that it  is considered hazing                                                               
when  a group  of students  with power  and seniority  use it  to                                                               
coerce other  students in unpleasant  activities.   These actions                                                               
can  harm  the  students  emotionally and  physically.    He  has                                                               
personally observed this  in high school.  In  closing, this bill                                                               
would  bring Alaska  in line  with  44 other  states to  identify                                                               
hazing  as  a   problem.    He  has  worked  with   a  number  of                                                               
organizations on  the bill and Senator  Fairclough has introduced                                                               
a companion bill in the Senate.                                                                                                 
9:39:25 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  REINBOLD  moved   the  committee  substitute  for                                                               
HB 189,  Version  O,  labeled  28-LS0672\O,  Strasbaugh,  4/9/13.                                                               
There being no objection, Version O was before the committee.                                                                   
9:40:03 AM                                                                                                                    
TULLY MCLOUGHLIN, Staff,  Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins,                                                               
Alaska   State   Legislature,   on   behalf   of   the   sponsor,                                                               
Representative  Kreiss-Tomkins,  explained  the  changes  to  the                                                               
original bill, in  the proposed committee substitute  (CS) for HB
189, Version O.                                                                                                                 
MR. MCLOUGHLIN referred to proposed  Section 1 of HB 189, Version                                                               
O, would  change "risk of  physical injury" to  "substantial risk                                                               
of serious  physical injury" to  better reflect the  language for                                                               
reckless  endangerment.   Basically, reckless  endangerment is  a                                                               
class A  misdemeanor, as is  hazing as defined  in the bill.   In                                                               
addition,  the   felony  provision  was  removed   after  holding                                                               
discussions with  the attorney general  since the level  of crime                                                               
would be covered elsewhere in the criminal code.                                                                                
MR. MCLOUGHLIN  referred to  proposed Section  1 (b),  Version O,                                                               
which would  delete the reference  to "normal and  customary" and                                                               
replace it  with "conduct  that is  reasonably expected  to occur                                                               
when  participating  in  athletic  physical  education,  military                                                               
training, or similar programs."   He explained that if a military                                                               
exercise  consisted of  a five-mile  run, the  participants could                                                               
not claim the routine exercise as hazing.                                                                                       
MR. MCLOUGHLIN referred  to proposed Section 7,  Version O, which                                                               
would  requires   a  school  employee,   or  volunteer   who  has                                                               
witnessed, or has reliable information  about an act of hazing to                                                               
report  the hazing  activity.   Version O  added language  that a                                                               
failure  to report  "shall"  result  in appropriate  disciplinary                                                               
MR.  MCLOUGHLIN  explained  that  proposed  Section  10  provides                                                               
definitions  to  AS   14.    Version  O  will   also  change  the                                                               
definitions in  AS 14  to match the  definitions in  the criminal                                                               
code, AS 11, in proposed Section 1  of HB 189.  He explained that                                                               
on page 3, line 21, [the  burden of proof for hazing] was changed                                                               
from  "intentional  act" to  "knowingly"  to  correspond [to  the                                                               
proof required  in Section 1  of HB 189,  which states "  ... the                                                               
person knowingly  engages ..."  and finally, on  page 4,  line 4,                                                               
the  language  is  changed  from the  language  in  the  original                                                               
version,  which  was  "normal  and   customary"  to  "an  act  or                                                               
situation  that is  reasonably expected  to  occur."   This is  a                                                               
conforming change.                                                                                                              
9:43:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  REINBOLD requested  specific  examples of  hazing                                                               
and whether the bill pertains to a specific age group in Alaska.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS  cited  a situation  in  Sitka  in                                                               
which high school  seniors tied a group of freshman  to trees and                                                               
left  them.    He  explained the  bill was  suggested by  a Mount                                                               
Edgecombe  teacher.   Students at  Mount Edgecombe  were surveyed                                                               
and a number of them  related hazing incidents.  Additionally, in                                                               
Juneau, a  wrestling team recently  had untoward  physical hazing                                                               
from upper  classmen.  He  reported that nationwide  nearly half,                                                               
or 47 percent of high school students, have undergone hazing.                                                                   
9:45:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX suggested  that the  activity of  students                                                               
being  tied to  trees would  fall under  assault in  the existing                                                               
criminal code.                                                                                                                  
MR. MCLOUGHLIN  agreed that  assault is in  the criminal  code as                                                               
one means to  address the students left tied to  trees.  However,                                                               
the purpose of inserting hazing is  to clearly define hazing as a                                                               
deviation  from the  social  norm and  highlight  that hazing  is                                                               
wrong.  This bill would help  ensure that hazing is identified as                                                               
a crime,  specifically as it  pertains to the initiation  into or                                                               
affiliation  with a  student group.   The  sponsor emphasized  it                                                               
merited its own definition in criminal law.                                                                                     
9:47:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX asked  for an  example of  hazing that  is                                                               
covered in  HB 189 that  would not be  considered a crime  in the                                                               
current criminal code.                                                                                                          
MR.  MCLOUGHLIN  answered  that he  couldn't  think  of  anything                                                               
specific.   The incidents of  hazing could fall under  any number                                                               
of crimes.   The class  A misdemeanor  penalties are the  same as                                                               
Assault in the  Second Degree.  However,  the criminal definition                                                               
in proposed  Section 1  is more restrictive  than one  offered in                                                               
the  one in  proposed Section  10.   This bill  would pertain  to                                                               
school   districts  and   schools  to   address  hazing   through                                                               
disciplinary actions.   He maintained  that 44 other  states have                                                               
considered this  type of legislation  and found it  important and                                                               
reasonable to consider as a criminal act.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  understood adding  hazing in terms  of how                                                               
it pertains to school districts,  but she expressed concern about                                                               
adding hazing to the criminal  code since the activity is already                                                               
addressed in the code.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS emphasized  that defining hazing in                                                               
the  criminal  code  is  important due  to  the  power  asymmetry                                                               
aspects.   Lower classmen  may submit to  the upper  classmen and                                                               
accept hazing as  a coercive assent for participation  in a group                                                               
activity.   Adding  hazing as  a  misdemeanor would  specifically                                                               
address  that  activity.    Granted,  the  criminal  activity  is                                                               
covered;  however,  the  blanket   charge  of  assault  could  be                                                               
confusing and students  might not understand they  have an avenue                                                               
to  seek  redress through  the  school  district or  the  courts,                                                               
especially given the coercion aspects.                                                                                          
MR.  MCLOUGHLIN directed  attention to  page 1,  lines 12-14,  to                                                               
subsection (c),  which specifically  addresses this,  which read,                                                               
"It is  not a  defense to  a prosecution for  a crime  under this                                                               
section that  the individual  against whom  the act  or situation                                                               
was  directed   consented  to  or   acquiesced  in  the   act  or                                                               
9:50:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   P.  WILSON   directed  attention   to  page   1,                                                               
subsection (d), and  compared to it page 4 lines  9-10 of HB 189,                                                               
which  defines organization.   She  explained that  AS 14  adds a                                                               
connection  to schools  and  she was  unsure  why the  definition                                                               
should be  different in AS  11 than  it is in  AS 14.   She again                                                               
referred to  subsection (d), which  read, "organization"  means a                                                               
fraternity, sorority,  association, corporation,  order, society,                                                               
corps,  cooperative, club,  service group,  social group,  faith-                                                               
based group,  athletic team, or  similar group whose  members are                                                               
primarily students."                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS   offered  his  belief   that  the                                                               
definition  in  Section 10,  relates  to  elementary, middle,  or                                                               
secondary schools  is because it  would apply to  school district                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON  referred to page 2,  line 3, subsection                                                               
(e) of  Version O.   She asked for  the penalty provisions  for a                                                               
class A misdemeanor.                                                                                                            
MR. MCLOUGHLIN  answered that the  maximum penalty for a  class A                                                               
misdemeanor is up to one year in prison.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON referred to  page 3, line  16, proposed                                                               
Section 7, which read, " ...  ; failure to report shall result in                                                           
appropriate  disciplinary   action."     She  asked   what  would                                                         
constitute appropriate disciplinary action under this language.                                                                 
MR. MCLOUGHLIN answered that everything  after proposed Section 1                                                               
of HB 189  pertains to school district policy.   The disciplinary                                                               
action in proposed Section 7 would  be taken by either the school                                                               
district or the school.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON asked whether  schools would be required                                                               
to have  policies in  place or if  something happened  the school                                                               
would decide what to do.                                                                                                        
MR.  MCLOUGHLIN referred  to Section  2, which  read, as  follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     (a) Each[BY  JULY 1, 2007, EACH]  school district shall                                                                
     adopt a  policy that prohibits the  hazing, harassment,                                                                
     intimidation, or  bullying of any student.  Each school                                                                    
     district  shall  share  this  policy  with  parents  or                                                                    
     guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees.                                                                     
MR. MCLOUGHLIN  responded that each school  district should adopt                                                               
a  policy  to address  hazing  and  the appropriate  disciplinary                                                               
9:55:45 AM                                                                                                                    
JEFFREY  MITTMAN, Executive  Director,  American Civil  Liberties                                                               
Union of  Alaska (ACLU-Alaska), offered  his support for  HB 189.                                                               
He  said hazing  and bullying  are serious  concerns in  Alaska's                                                               
schools and  throughout the country.   This bill goes a  long way                                                               
towards addressing that  issue in a very real  and important way.                                                               
The  ACLU-Alaska strongly  supports proposed  Sections 2-10.   He                                                               
offered  to  continue  work  with the  sponsor  on  the  criminal                                                               
provisions.  The  ACLU has expressed some concern  about the bill                                                               
criminalizing student behavior, but  anticipates working with the                                                               
sponsor to address these issues.                                                                                                
9:56:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  assumed the  letter in  members' packets                                                               
referred to an earlier version of the bill.                                                                                     
MR. MITTMAN said that is correct.                                                                                               
9:57:14 AM                                                                                                                    
GARY  MATTHEWS,  Executive  Director,  Alaska  School  Activities                                                               
Association  (ASAA),  stated that  he  submitted  a letter  dated                                                               
April 2, 2013 in support of the  bill.  He said the ASAA does not                                                               
specifically have rules that prohibit  hazing but it is a concern                                                               
to  coaches,   schools,  families,  students,   and  communities.                                                               
Additionally, students have the right  to feel safe in school and                                                               
during   school  activities   without  threat   of  intimidation.                                                               
Granted,  many school  districts have  anti-bullying policies  in                                                               
place.   However,  it  makes  sense to  expand  those to  include                                                               
prohibitions  on  hazing.  He  was   unsure  how  many  districts                                                               
specifically  include  hazing  in  their current  policies.    He                                                               
acknowledged that hazing happens in  Alaska.  In fact, during the                                                               
past  few  years  there  have   been  notorious  cases  involving                                                               
athletes in  Alaska, some  of which have  been sexual  in nature.                                                               
Fortunately, serious injuries have been  avoided, but it does not                                                               
mean that Alaska  should lower its vigilance.   In conclusion, he                                                               
said the ASAA supports the bill, as amended.                                                                                    
9:58:53 AM                                                                                                                    
BRUCE  JOHNSON,  Executive  Director, Alaska  Council  of  School                                                               
Administrators  (ACSA), offered  his belief  that this  bill will                                                               
shine a  bright light  on hazing.   It  is appropriate  that this                                                               
happen.   Recent incidents have  been reported to  indicate youth                                                               
are subjected to hazing.  The ACSA  would like to be on record to                                                               
eliminate any hazing.  Further  the ACSA supports the proposed CS                                                               
for HB 189, [Version O.]                                                                                                        
10:00:14 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX said it appears  there may be certain cases                                                               
of hazing that encompasses mental  distress versus physical harm.                                                               
She asked  whether First  Amendment rights  would be  breeched by                                                               
this law if "mean teasing" is part of the bill.                                                                                 
MR.  MITTMAN   responded  that  the  ACLU-Alaska   will  want  to                                                               
carefully analyze the  proposed CS to make a  determination.  The                                                               
ACLU has  historically taken the  viewpoint that it  is important                                                               
to  punish the  actions not  speech or  thoughts.   Therefore the                                                               
ACLU-Alaska has been working with  the bill sponsor to ensure the                                                               
bill  will  punish  behavior  and   actions  and  not  speech  or                                                               
thoughts.  He expressed confidence that this can be addressed.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  commented he  is working  with the                                                               
attorney general  on the ACLU's  concerns.  He said  the language                                                               
in Section  1 has been refined.   However, Section 10  has a more                                                               
expansive  definition  of  hazing,  but  it  is  not  defined  as                                                               
criminal activity.                                                                                                              
10:02:41 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON referred to  page 4, line 1, which read,                                                               
"to the  risk of  physical injury or  severe mental  or emotional                                                               
injury, ...  " which she  viewed as  subjective.  She  related in                                                               
her own family,  one of her five siblings found  some things that                                                               
happened  to them  were "emotional"  but  the remaining  siblings                                                               
view the  experiences differently.  Therefore,  she surmised that                                                               
every  student   will  experience  similar   events  differently.                                                               
However, while bullies  tend to focus in  on perceived weaknesses                                                               
and some  students can be  traumatized, others are  not affected.                                                               
She  cautioned that  it is  subjective  and can  be difficult  to                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS responded  that  the  point is  an                                                               
excellent  point.   First,  the  bill  leaves  it to  the  school                                                               
districts  on  harassment  and intimidation.    Secondly,  it  is                                                               
difficult to  define emotional and  mental injury.  He  relayed a                                                               
reported incident  from a Chicago  girls' soccer hazing  that was                                                               
inappropriate,  although the  hazing did  not result  in physical                                                               
injury.   Again, it's up  to the  school districts to  decide, he                                                               
CHAIR  GATTIS, after  first  determining no  one  else wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HB 189.                                                                                     
10:06:08 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  commented there are enough  instances of                                                               
hazing in  Alaska perpetrated on  students in Alaska  to indicate                                                               
it's  important  to cover  as  many  definitions as  possible  to                                                               
provide clarity and support to the school districts.                                                                            
10:07:02 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR GATTIS thanked the sponsor for bringing the bill forward.                                                                 
She said she thinks the bill helps elevate the conversation and                                                                 
better identify that hazing exists.                                                                                             
[HB 189 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HB 197 v. A.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
02 HB 197 Sponsor Statement v. A.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
03 HB 197 Sectional Analysis v. A.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
04 HB 197 Supporting Document-ECS Early Literacy.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
05 HB 197 Supporting Document-FL vs AK.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
06 HB 197 Supporting Document-ECS.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
07 HB 197 Supporting Document-State at Risk.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
08 HB 197 Fiscal Note-EED-TLS-4-5-13.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 197
01 HB 189 Version N.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
02 HB 189 Sponsor Statement v. N.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
03 HB 189 Versions Explanation.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
04 HB 189 Sectional Analysis_3.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
05 HB 189 Fiscal Note-EED-K12-3-28-13.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
06 HB 189 Fiscal Note-DOC-OC-04-05-13.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
07 HB 189 Relevant Definitions.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
08 HB 189 Dr Lipkins Letter of Support.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
09 HB 189 Brian Crow Letter of Support.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
10 HB 189 Lori Klein Letter of Support.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189
11 HB 189 Norm Pollard Letter of Support.pdf HEDC 4/10/2013 9:00:00 AM
HB 189