Parents testify in Washington in favor of bill that would increase penalties for hazing
OLYMPIA, Wash. (KPTV) - College students in Washington could face felony charges for hazing if legislators approve a new bill in the State House of Representatives.
The measure was inspired by a student who died at Washington State University.
In 2019, 19-year-old Sam Martinez was a student at WSU and a pledge at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He died after a hazing incident that saw him drink a large amount of rum, which led to alcohol poisoning.
On Monday, his parents testified in favor of House Bill 1002 which would increase the penalties for hazing.
Fifteen people were charged in connection to Martinez’s death. Most of them received a day of community service and only the person who gave Martinez the alcohol received any jail time - that’s because hazing is currently classified as a misdemeanor in Washington.
The new bill would make it a gross misdemeanor and any hazing that results in a serious injury would be a Class C felony.
Class C felonies carry a max sentence of five years in prison, compared to misdemeanors which carry a max sentence of 90 days.
At Monday’s House public hearing, Martinez’s mother, Jolayne Houtz, spoke about the students who hazed her late son and the need for stricter penalties.
“Sam’s so-called big brother who gave him a half bottle of rum and told him to drink served just 19 days in jail. One day for each year of Sam’s life,” she said. “What is the message we send to people who haze when the consequences for hazing are so laughable?”
According to a national study by the University of Maine, 55% of college students experienced some form of hazing, but the study shows only 5% of those students actually reported the hazing.
Martinez’s parents already helped pass a bill called “Sam’s Law” that went into effect last year. It requires colleges across Washington to provide anti-hazing training to new students and mandates that schools track and publicize incidents of hazing on the school website.
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