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Who Can Hazing Victims Sue?

Most school officials, coaches and students understand the seriousness of hazing in youth athletics. Once shrugged off as “rites of passage,” most people understand that hazing-related assault can cause profound psychological damage to the victims – in addition to obvious physical injuries – and may result in depression, irreversible psychological trauma and suicide.

Sayreville Public Schools in New Jersey is in the epicenter of the hazing issue concerning sexual assaults that occurred in the high school football locker room last year. A child hazing victim is seeking approximately $1.5 million for Sayreville’s negligent supervision, claiming that the negligence allowed seven players to sexually assault him and three others.

The assaults made national headlines in October, 2014. Seven minors were charged with aggravated sexual assault and hazing.

The horrific assault shows that close supervision of youth athletes is necessary. Although most youth athletes understand that bullying teammates is not acceptable, all it takes is one kid to take things too far. At an age when peer pressure often wins out versus right-and-wrong, good kids can become passive spectators or enablers. An adult should always be supervising youth locker rooms to prevent physical or psychological harm.

If a school or organization fails to properly supervise, it may be liable for resulting damage. Of course, the persons committing the assault may also be sued. If the students committing the hazing or assault are minors, it may be possible to hold their tormentors’ parents financially responsible through the doctrine of vicarious liability.

If the lawsuit involves a public school or its staff, the plaintiff-victim will need to carefully follow municipal liability rules. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you assess your unique hazing situation.

Source: Asbury Park Press, “Sayreville May Face $1.5M Lawsuit In Wake Of Football Scandal,” Greg Tufaro, Jan. 20, 2015.

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