Middle- and high-school kids look up to college students. They try to emulate them, and often that's a good thing —  but it's not always healthy. Such is the case with the growing prevalence of hazing among students in secondary schools.

That’s why we commend state lawmakers for expanding Pennsylvania’s hazing laws to include secondary school students. Schools must now put into place anti-hazing policies.

The law takes effect July 25.

According to, the definition of hazing is “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

It publishes the following facts on its website:

  • Hazing occurs in sports teams, clubs, Greek life, cheerleading, honor societies and more
  • Hazing is often about power and control. Hazing does not build unity
  • More than half of students in colleges and universities involved in clubs, sports teams and organizations have experienced hazing
  • A significant number of hazing incidents and deaths involve alcohol consumption
  • Students are more likely to be hazed if they knew an adult who was hazed
  • 2 in 5 students say they are aware of hazing taking place on their campus
  • Hazing occurs in middle schools, high schools and colleges
  • Both male and female students report a high level of hazing

If you’re not sure whether or not something happening to you or to someone else is hazing, suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I feel comfortable participating in this activity if my parents were watching?
  • Would we get in trouble if a school/college administrator walked by and saw us?
  • Am I being asked to keep these activities a secret?
  • Am I doing anything illegal?
  • Does participation in this activity violate my values or those of this organization?
  • Is this causing emotional or physical distress or stress to myself or to others?
  • Am I going to be able to get a job if I have to put a criminal arrest on my application?

York Suburban Superintendent Shelly Merkle told York Dispatch education reporter Alyssa Jackson: "What we're seeing is high school students mimicking college practices more and more, and that unfortunately includes hazing. While I don't believe hazing is a significant problem at York Suburban, we have to recognize that it is in society as a whole."

Indeed. Last October, Susquehannock High School was investigated for a hazing incident. Before that, Northeastern's middle school football team was accused of hazing in 2014.

We know that kids can get carried away. But hazing can get quickly out of control. We hope parents and educators continue to speak to students about how such behavior might start out innocently enough, but if it escalates, it could seriously harm someone.

And if that happens, young lives would be forever changed — for the worse.

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