House plan would protect those calling for help in college hazing incidents

      After some college students in Missouri and elsewhere in the U.S. have suffered permanent physical damage or even died following hazing incidents, one state lawmaker is proposing a law he thinks could help to protect students in this state.

Representative Travis Smith (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Many of the incidents that have received attention in the news in recent years have involved excessive consumption of alcohol.  After once such case last year at the University of Missouri a freshman was left blind and in a wheelchair and 11 of the brothers in the fraternity to which he was pledging are facing criminal charges.

      Representative Travis Smith (R-Dora) said hazing is not what it was when he was a student at MU. 

      “Hazing back then basically was you had a lot of these people coming in from high school that were big man on campus … and it was a lot like the military.  It was designed to break you down and build you back up.”  Smith says hazing has become something different, and it starts with the fact that alcohol being outlawed altogether on many college campuses, “and what a lot of these kids are doing is getting hard liquor and drinking it as quickly as possible.” 

      Smith’s proposal, House Bill 240, would protect from being charged with hazing anyone who calls 911 to report a person in need of medical assistance, or who remains at a scene to assist such a person until emergency personnel arrive. 

      “Right now hazing is a felony in the State of Missouri, which it should be, but since it’s a felony, everyone is scared to call 911, so we’re either losing lives or I think there was a case at Penn State where a young man overdosed on alcohol and he lost his sight and he lost, basically his ability to function in society.  What we’re trying to do … is make it where if that incident does happen … the person who calls 911 is not liable under a felony, because basically they’re helping save someone’s life.”

      Smith believes with his bill in place students who have drank too much could get life-saving care faster.   

      “A lot of times it’s no different than overdoses with any other kind of drugs or alcohol.  If you get in the emergency room in time there’s a lot of things they can do to pump out the stomach, get that alcohol out of their system and save their life.”

      The legislator says it’s important to remember that these students are young and situations like these are frightening.

      “When you’re in a situation where you’ve never been and someone’s passed out or someone is not responding it’s a scary situation.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 55 years old with a master’s degree or a doctorate or you’re a 19 year old kid … it’s scary.  This just decreases that liability with the hopes that you won’t worry about getting in trouble and you’ll be more worried about saving someone’s life.”

      “We need to protect these college kids because they’ve got enough stuff to deal with without having to worry about being liable for someone else when they call 911.  Trying to save someone’s life you should not get in trouble.”

      Smith has prefiled HB 240 for the session that will begin January 4.