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Government & Politics

Ohio's New Anti-Hazing Law Strengthens Penalties for Coercion to Consume Drugs, Alcohol

Kathleen Wiant talks about the importance of the anti-hazing bill. Wiant's son, Collin, was an 18-year-old Ohio University freshman when he died during a hazing activity..
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Kathleen Wiant talks about the importance of the anti-hazing bill. Wiant's son, Collin, was an 18-year-old Ohio University freshman when he died during a hazing activity..

Universities in Ohio are preparing for a new law that cracks down on hazing by student organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, by making specific violations a felony.

The bill, SB126, revises the definition of hazing in Ohio law to include "coercing another to consume" alcohol or drugs as part of an initiation into a student organization.

If doing so results in serious physical harm then offenders can face up to a third degree felony.

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who signed SB126 into law on Tuesday, says preventing hazing is about changing the culture within the organizations that commit the offense.

"And for decades the culture of hazing has been accepted as something that is tolerated," DeWine says. "This bill says that going forward hazing in the state of Ohio is simply not tolerated."

The bill is named "Collin's Law" in honor of Collin Wiant, who died as an Ohio University freshman in November 2018 after collapsing at an off-campus house. A toxicology report showed Collin died of asphyxiation caused by nitrous oxide ingestion.

Seven people have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges in connection to Wiant's death including charges of hazing and drug possession.

The families of Collin Wiant and Stone Foltz were at the Statehouse for the bill signing.

Foltz also died after an alleged hazing activity at Bowling Green State University in March. Six people have been indicted by a grand jury on felony manslaughter charges while two others face hazing charges.

Kathleen Wiant, Collin's mother, says her son would be happy to know there's a law in his name created to protect others.

"I just can't stop thinking about what brought us here was having Collin taken from us and all the pain that comes from that and that, no matter what we do, even with all this work, nothing can bring him back which is so hard and so painful," says Kathleen Wiant. "But we also know that this really is going to save lives and if we can spare another family from going through this, I would do anything to spare another family from this."

The bill calls on the Ohio Department of Higher Education to create a statewide anti-hazing policy for colleges and universities to follow, with schools required to adopt their own specific anti-hazing policy as well.

The law states that colleges and universities must compile a report of all violations of the institution's anti-hazing policy and make that report available to the public.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.