Legislature(2013 - 2014)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/05/2013 08:00 AM EDUCATION
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 91-HAZING 8:44:36 AM CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SB 91. 8:44:52 AM SENATOR ANNA FAIRCLOUGH, sponsor of SB 91, related that the bill raises the issue of hazing in Alaska. She noted in 2007 she requested school districts and Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) to provide numbers about bullying and harassment in schools. She emphasized that the numbers are large. She said she wished to see hazing defined as a crime and as an option for kids to report to their teachers. She said hazing creates physical and emotional harm. She spoke of the connection between suicide and bullying and hazing. She said the bill attempts to say hazing is wrong and hurtful and people will be held accountable. 8:47:26 AM CHAIR STEVENS asked where the line is drawn between hazing versus normal actions. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH replied that initiations are ways people are accepted into groups or teams. Hazing is an initiation gone wrong. She explained Section 1 of SB 91 outlines the definition of hazing. She said you commit a crime if you "knowingly engage in an act or it causes a situation that subjects a student to risk of physical injury for the purposes of initiation into an affiliation or organization operating in connection with an elementary, junior high, secondary, or post-secondary school." She said it does not apply to things in the military that makes one a better team member. She added that people are "at risk" when they experience emotional harm or degrading or disrespectful behavior. 8:49:11 AM SENATOR GARDNER said she wished to co-sponsor the bill. She also addressed the difficulty of determining where the line should be drawn. She noted that hazing might also take place within athletic teams, clubs, and private leagues. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH agreed and offered to work with the committee, as well as with the Senate Judiciary Committee about those concerns. She emphasized that hazing depends on whether a student is willingly participating in an action. She noted the need for regulations to be written to protect students from not being labeled as criminals if their actions do not constitute hazing. 8:51:08 AM CHAIR STEVENS asked for examples of hazing. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH replied that public testimony will provide examples. She recalled a personal experience. LES MORSE, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), testified in support of SB 91. He said the bill adds to a definition around work that the department already does. He noted the department submitted a zero fiscal note. He related that the department currently provides training and e-modules to train staff on the issue of bullying. He said information about hazing could be added. 8:53:22 AM CHAIR STEVENS asked if the department would provide training for districts. MR. MORSE said the department currently provides training tools and assistance with policies. SENATOR HUGGINS asked about the difference between bullying and hazing. MR. MORSE replied that hazing is a form of bullying. He opined that the statute would provide a clear definition which would assist the department with training materials. 8:55:25 AM SENATOR HUGGINS agreed that hazing was a subset of bullying. He wondered if educators really need additional training. He questioned how bullying crimes could be expunged later on. 8:57:23 AM MR. MORSE said there are rules for juveniles who have committed criminal offenses. He said he could not speak to the issue. SENATOR GARDNER also agreed that hazing is a subset of bullying. She asked if hazing is generally a part of an initiation by a team. MR. MORSE replied that was a good way of characterizing it. He stressed the importance of staff having the training to deal with these issues. He said more important is how to train students in what is right and wrong. SENATOR HUGGINS suggested that hazing could happen on the school bus or in other informal environments. 9:00:53 AM GARY MATHEWS, Director, Alaska School Activities Association, testified in support of SB 91. He addressed hazing issues related to school activities, most of which are never exposed to the public. He said hazing is a national problem. He noted he was concerned at first about the definition of hazing found on page 4. The terms "normal and customary" are not clear. He suggested the first two lines of Section 4 provide some clarification. He opined that an educational campaign would be in order to instruct students about the implications of hazing. 9:04:24 AM RYAN ULSEP, Principal, Juneau Douglas High School, testified in support of SB 91. He agreed that hazing is a national issue. He applauded the sponsor and the committee for addressing the issue of hazing because it will help schools stop it. He said Juneau's policy specifically mentions hazing. He pointed out that hazing is significantly underreported and difficult to enforce. He said many initiation behaviors can be considered as hazing. He concluded that SB 91 provides schools with additional support to deal with hazing. 9:07:25 AM CHAIR STEVENS asked what Mr. Ulsep would do as a principal to help students understand the definition and consequences of hazing. MR. ULSEP replied that the school needs to education students about why hazing is wrong. He said any time a person is making another person do something they do not want to do, it is hazing. He stressed that the community must be educated, also. SENATOR GARDNER agreed. She said it is difficult for one person to go against a group's behavior. She recalled one of her children's coaches who encouraged members of the team to choose three things that they would give up for the entirety of the season. This gave the team a support system and a chance to practice "going against the grain." MR. ULSEP agreed. 9:10:05 AM SENATOR HUGGINS said he supports the ideas behind SB 91. He asked Mr. Ulsep how long he has been a principal. MR. ULSEP said he has been an administrator for eight years and a teacher prior to that, as well as a football and track coach. He pointed out that hazing is not done just by teams and is often not reported. SENATOR HUGGINS requested examples of hazing. MR. ULSEP replied that paddling is an example of hazing. SENATOR HUGGINS asked if paddling is a crime. MR. ULSEP specified that paddling by a group of students on one kid is a crime and a form of bullying. He hoped SB 91 helps schools send a message that hazing is wrong. He said any action of a sexual nature is hazing, as well as forcing kids to shave their heads if they don't want to have it done. 9:14:54 AM NORM POLLARD, Dean of Students, Alfred University, Alfred, New York, presented information related to SB 91. He spoke of his experience as a counselor and a researcher of national studies on hazing of NCAA athletes and high school students. He spoke of his involvement in hazing prevention and working with victims of hazing. 9:16:24 AM CHAIR STEVENS asked for comments about the differences in thinking of today's generation versus yesterday's regarding initiation and hazing. MR. POLLARD noted the fundamental difference between bullying and hazing is that bullying is where individuals are targeted to be picked on and humiliated, whereas with hazing, the individual wishes to join a group. When that person is subjected to hazing, the issue is about power and control and ends up having tragic consequences. He agreed it is difficult to draw the line between what is and is not a crime. He said hazing is typically done in private. 9:19:51 AM SENATOR GARDNER said she visited Mr. Pollard's website, hazingprevention.com., which provided guidelines to determine what hazing is and is not. She called them good guidelines. MR. POLLARD agreed. He noted previous testimony by Mr. Matthews from Alaska School Activities Association and said that organization is an excellent source for information related to hazing, as is the national organization. 9:21:01 AM SENATOR HUGGINS asked about school jurisdiction as it relates to hazing. MR. POLLARD explained that hazing occurs outside of school and athletics. He listed places it can occur. He said he hoped by schools adopting some of these measures, students can be educated about hazing, even when it takes place outside of the school's authority. 9:23:20 AM CHAIR STEVENS held SB 91 in committee. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH thanked the committee for hearing the bill. She gave an example of hazing in Southeast Alaska. 9:24:14 AM CHAIR STEVENS said that public testimony would continue at a later date.