Sample Policy: Hazing, Initiation Rituals, Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Physical Punishment

Note:  The following sample policy is an excerpt from a prepublication manuscript due to be published in 2013: Lopiano, D.A. and Zotos, C. (Publication 2013) The Athletics Director’s Desk Reference. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.  Do not use this sample policy without customizing for your institution, and if necessary, having the document reviewed by institutional legal counsel or higher administration to ensure consistency with local, state, and federal laws and institutional policy.

1.0    Zero Tolerance Stance: Hazing, Initiation Rituals, Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Physical Punishment.  The athletics department is committed to eliminating and preventing hazing, initiation rituals, sexual harassment, bullying, and physical punishment activities and/or behaviors, which serve to humiliate, demean and devalue the worth of another individual or student-athlete. The protection of every individual’s basic rights and the provision of a safe and non-threatening environment are essential.  The athletics department prohibits any hazing, bullying, or team bonding activities that subject student-athletes or other individuals to mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.  Severe sanctions will be imposed for violators.  In an effort to eliminate these practices, the athletics department is committed to providing education and awareness training. The department also requires administrators, staff, and student-athletes to report any such behavior.

2.0    Definitions.

2.1    Hazing Behaviors, Initiation Rituals, and Physical Punishment.  The athletics department defines “hazing” and inappropriate team or individual initiation or bonding activities as any action taken against another individual or group of individuals which results in abuse, harassment, intimidation, or any form of degradation.  The action taken can be physical, mental, emotional, or psychological and the effects may be intended or unintended.  It does not matter if participation by the victim(s) is voluntary or involuntary.  Following are examples of, but not limited to, prohibited actions and behaviors constituting hazing, initiation rituals or physical punishment:

  • forcing, requiring or pressuring the consumption of alcohol or other drugs
  • forcing, requiring or pressuring the ingestion of any substance
  • forcing, requiring or pressuring the shaving of any part of the body
  • forcing, requiring or pressuring the participation in any activity which is illegal, perverse, publicly indecent, or contrary to the individual’s genuine moral beliefs
  • forcing, requiring or pressuring an individual to tamper with or damage property
  • dietary restrictions of any kind
  • deprivation of sleep and waking up/disturbing individuals during normal sleep hours
  • creation of excessive fatigue
  • calisthenics or any type of physically abusive exercise
  • paddling, whipping, beating or physical abuse of any kind
  • engaging in public stunts and buffoonery
  • forced tattooing or branding
  • road trips, kidnapping, drop-offs, or any other such activities
  • work projects without the participation of the full membership
  • assigned or endorsed pranks, such as borrowing or stealing items, painting property or objects, or harassing other individuals or groups
  • subjecting a member to cruel and unusual psychological conditions
  • forcing, encouraging, or pressuring the wearing of apparel in public which is conspicuous, not normally in good taste, or designed to humiliate the individual(s) wearing it
  • morally degrading or humiliating games or activities
  • verbal or cruel harassment, including yelling and screaming
  • line-ups, kangaroo courts, or any interrogation not consistent with the legitimate testing for information about the purposes and history of the team
  • any activity that interferes with one’s ability to study or complete one’s course of study
  • participation in sexual rituals or assaults and/or required nudity
  • requiring members to escort each other on campus
  • collective behavior such as marching
  • activities that promote or encourage the violation of state law or college policy
  • requiring new members to “greet” initiated members
  • requiring the answering of phones or doors with songs, chants, or riddles
  • requiring yelling or screaming upon entering or leaving a facility
  • deception or threat contrived to convince the new member that he/she will not be permitted to join
  • mentally abusive or demeaning behavior

2.2    Sexual Harassment.  Sexual harassment is unwanted, often persistent, sexual attention and any other behavior with sexual overtones that creates a hostile work or learning environment.  It may include written or verbal abuse or threats, physical contact, sexually graphic literature, sexual advances, demands for sexual favors, sexually oriented comments, jokes, lewd comments or sexual innuendoes, taunts about body, dress, marital status or sexuality, shouting and/or bullying, ridiculing or undermining of performance or self-respect, sexual or homophobic graffiti, practical jokes based on sex, intimidating sexual remarks, invitations or familiarity, domination of meetings, training sessions or equipment, condescending or patronizing behavior, physical contact, fondling, pinching or kissing, sex-related vandalism, offensive 'phone calls or photos, and/or bullying on the basis of sex.  Sexual harassment also includes all forms of sexual violence such as sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, and sexual coercion which will be referred to authorities as criminal matters.  Sexual harassment/sexual violence by coaches or athletic department employees towards other employees or student-athletes, by student-athletes towards other students or student-athletes, or by student-athletes toward athletics department employees is expressly prohibited.

2.3    Bullying.   Bullying occurs when there is an imbalance of power and the person who is older, larger, stronger, or more aggressive uses his or her power to control or harm someone in a weaker position.  The person bullying has the intent or goal to cause harm (i.e., the act is not accidental) and the action is usually repetitious.   Bullying includes but is not limited to:  name-calling, teasing, socially spreading rumors, purposely leaving people out of groups by telling them or others they are unwanted, breaking up friendships by threatening others or spreading rumors about a friend, or physically hitting, punching or shoving a person.  Cyberbully, using the internet, email, texting, mobile phones, social media or other digital technologies to do harm to others, is bullying and also prohibited.

3.0    Inappropriate Professional Conduct between Coaches and Student-Athletes.  Coaches, athletic department staff members, volunteers, or others who have authority over or provide professional services to student-athletes must exhibit the highest standards of impartiality and professional treatment and are prohibited from engaging in inappropriate conduct with student-athletes.  Having a sexual, intimate, romantic, or similar close personal relationship with individuals over which a person has an instructional or service responsibility, even if a consensual relationship between adults, creates the appearance or actuality of favoritism and special treatment which is professionally unethical and unacceptable and is expressly prohibited.  Examples of other professionally inappropriate behaviors expressly prohibited include:

  • staff performing back rubs or massage on a student-athlete (must be performed by a licensed allied health professional approved by the institution) or employee
  • kissing 
  • frequent touching that is non-instructional, non-celebratory
  • commenting on student-athletes’ or employees’ bodies or appearance in a sexual manner
  • exchanging romantic gifts or communications 
  • showing obscene or suggestive photos 
  • videotaping or photographing student-athletes or employees in revealing or suggestive poses
  • discussing/writing about sexual topics unrelated to curriculum of student-athletes or work responsibilities of employees
  • making sexual jokes, sexual gestures, and innuendos or engaging in inappropriate sexually oriented banter with student-athletes or employees (e.g. discussion of dating behavior).
  • sharing sexual exploits or marital difficulties
  • intentionally invading the student-athlete's or employee’s privacy during non-working hours or outside of regularly schedules practice and competition
  • using e-mail, text-messaging, or instant messaging to discuss sexual topics with students or employees

Such unprofessional behaviors or sexual or romantic personal relationships undermine the trust in the coach or employee and belief that the student-athlete will be treated impartially. Employees engaging in such unethical conduct shall be subject to immediate termination of employment.  Student-athletes or employees with knowledge of the occurrence of such conduct shall be expected to immediately inform the Athletics Director.

4.0    Personal Offense. A student-athlete or coach commits a serious offense when he/she:

  • Engages in hazing, prohibited team initiation rituals, physical punishment, sexual harassment or sexual violence or inappropriate and unprofessional behaviors as listed in 2.0 above
  • Solicits, encourages, aids, or attempts to aid another individual with such behaviors
  • Intentionally or knowingly permits such behavior
  • Has firsthand knowledge of the planning of such behavior and fails to act to prevent such behavior
  • Has firsthand knowledge that such behavior as occurred, and knowingly fails to report it to the institution

5.0    Reporting a Coach Offense. The athletics department recognizes how difficult it may be for a student-athlete or another athletics department staff member to report a coach offense.  Thus, a non-athletics department employee/member of the faculty has been designated to determine the appropriate investigatory and adjudication process to be utilized for any such offense.  Contact [enter name of faculty member] at [enter email address and phone] to report or discuss any behaviors of concern.  In cases of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual violence committed by coaches, faculty, staff or students of the institution, investigatory and adjudication processes are conducted by the [enter office] and that office should be contacted at [enter name and phone of sexual harassment official or Title IX coordinator].  Retaliation for reporting concerns or offenses is strickly prohibited.

6.0    Education and Awareness

6.1    Inclusion in Publications. This zero tolerance hazing policy will be included and distributed with all applicable athletics department administrative, staff, and student-athlete informational and compliance handbooks all of which will include a website reference to the policy as well.

6.2    Commitment to Education. Educating everyone in the athletics department about this policy will occur on a continual basis and at the annual compliance informational meetings for administrators, staff, and student-athletes.

6.3    Anti-Hazing Week. The athletics department will provide a comprehensive and educational program each year during National Anti-Hazing Week.

7.0    Duty to Report. The athletics department will inform all administrators, staff, and student-athletes of their duty to report suspected hazing activities and of the appropriate reporting mechanisms for addressing those concerns as follows:

  • Any individual who believes that this policy has been violated should refer the matter to the Office of [enter office] and that office should be contacted at [enter name and phone of sexual harassment official or Title IX coordinator].
  • Individuals who have knowledge of either witnessing or participating in hazing activities, or who suspect that hazing activities may be occurring or have already occurred, must report such activities to this same contact person and must thoroughly cooperate in an investigatory process in conjunction with institutional officials.

8.0    Violations and Sanctions

8.1    Immediate Imposition of Sanctions. In a case where a violation of the zero-tolerance policies is concerned, the authorized institutional administrator is authorized to apply sanctions immediately upon determination that such violations have occurred.

8.2    Keeping Administrative Officials Involved. If the athletics department investigates and determines that there have been violations of zero-tolerance policies, it will keep the appropriate institutional administrators fully informed of all proceedings and will provide that official with copies of all written documents and determinations.

8.3    Failure to Report. Any individual not reporting prohibited activities, not cooperating, or providing false or misleading information in regard to an investigation process will be subject to sanctions.

8.4    Allowable Sanctions. Sanctions for conduct not permitted under this policy may include but not be limited to one or more of the following:

  • warning
  • reprimand
  • probation with or without conditions
  • requirements for restitution
  • conditions intended to encourage personal rehabilitation (i.e. counseling and community service activities)
  • suspension from employment, with or without pay
  • termination of employment
  • suspension from practice for a definite period of time
  • restriction from receipt of athletics department or institutional services
  • suspension from competition for a definite period of time
  • loss of grant-in-aid
  • potential criminal prosecution

The institution reserves the right to enforce or relinquish the sanctions imposed for violation of the zero-tolerance policies at the administration’s discretion.  Coaches or other staff determined to be involved in or who condone such activities shall be subject to immediate sanctions including termination of employment.