ATLANTA - Georgia's state Senate unanimously approved a bill Friday that will institute stiff penalties for hazing.
Under the legislation, anyone convicted of misdemeanor hazing would be subject to as much as a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Hazing that results in serious bodily harm would be considered a felony and carry a fine of up to $50,000 and one to five years of jail time. A conviction for hazing that caused someone's death would result in one to ten years in jail, as well as that $50,000 fine.
Who is the Max Gruver Act named after?
Gruver died in 2017 after suffering alcohol poisoning during a fraternity hazing incident at Louisiana State University. While his case would not have been covered by Georgia law, his parents, Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, support the measure.
"So many of Max's friends are in college right now and we have a younger son and they're all in college and we just want to protect them. We want to protect their families," said Rae Ann Gruver. "We just can't imagine this happening to anyone else. I mean, it's horrific. So, if we can save one life, you know, we're doing our job in honor of Max."
What is the 'Max Gruver Act?'
The 'Max Gruver Act' also requires anyone who witnesses an act of hazing to "render reasonable assistance." If not, they can also be found guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to up to a year in jail. Anyone who acts "in good faith" to report hazing to law enforcement or school officials would be safe from prosecution.
"This bill is absolutely the strongest and most definitive hazing bill in the country and it honestly sets the bar for all other states to follow when it comes to laws against hazing."
The bill's primary sponsor, state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said the legislation provides some transparency for young people and their families. The bill includes a provision that beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, postsecondary schools in Georgia must publicly report any findings of hazing violations including the name of the organization involved, the dates of the incidents and a description of what happened.
"The 'Max Gruver Act' honoring the legacy of Max will help kids to be safe and make sure that our students and our parents are making good decisions when they enter into these organized groups," explained Sen. Albers.
The bill now needs approval from the House of Representatives.
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