Below is a letter that was shared with Hill School families on January 7, 2019.
Dear Hill Families:
Every single person has worth and dignity. This idea is the very foundation of The Hill. It is also at the very core of our values as a country and the world. However, there are occasions when individuals do not appropriately practice these values. Such occasions include the tragic deaths of students during hazing by organizations like fraternities or sports teams. These events have been in the news recently with the death of a Penn State student during a fraternity hazing. In response, Pennsylvania has taken recent steps to outlaw hazing by college and second school organizations. On October 19, 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (Hill School Class of 1967) signed Senate Bill 1090 The Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Bill into law. This new statute (named after the deceased Penn State student) impacts all schools in Pennsylvania and its content has now been communicated to Hill students.
This law's intention is for greater protection of students from organizational and institutional hazing that has traditionally taken place in some institutions of learning, specifically within teams and groups. While colleges and universities typically have functioning groups that have more sovereignty from the institutions themselves, The Hill is structured so that such groups operate in direct conjunction with our institutional authority. However, the law still requires the School to make students and families aware of the law's new provisions. Therefore, the contents of Senate Bill 1090 were communicated with students in each form on Thursday, December 13. Furthermore, many student organizations, such as athletic teams, will have follow-up information sessions related to this new law in the coming weeks.
Below are some of the key points shared with students on The Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Bill:
• Organizational hazing is defined under the law as facilitated or directed behavior of individuals for entry or status in an organization;
• Even if a person willingly and/or enthusiastically complies with facilitated or directed hazing, the organization is still held to the same legal standard;
• Hazing that results in a bodily injury is now a third degree misdemeanor, which can include imprisonment;
• Hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death is now a third degree felony, which can include imprisonment of up to 7 years;
• Other state and federal laws that are broken in the course of hazing would still be considered for prosecution as well.
The law goes on to outline expectations for institutions to adopt written policies for hazing. As was also communicated to the students, our community already has several rules in The Hill School Handbook that cover hazing and frankly do so at a higher level than Senate Bill 1090. Rules regarding Disrespectful Behavior, Disreputable Behavior, Bullying, Hate Speech, and the Acceptable Use Policy specifically outline expectations around behavior considered under the new anti-hazing law. That said, it is very important to reiterate that the School is committed to uphold the laws of the state of Pennsylvania and that we notify the proper legal authorities about any possible behavior that compromises the law when brought to the School's attention.
There is a lot of information to consider with this new law, but ultimately it boils down to our community's steadfast commitment to assuring that our students treat all human beings with respect. For every single person has true worth and everlasting dignity.
Dean of Students