A comparison of the Pennsylvania and Florida antihazing laws

Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, recently signed Florida’s new antihazing law, referred to as “Andrew’s Law”. Andrew’s Law is effective October 1, 2019.

Pennsylvania institutions of higher education may be familiar with many of the provisions of Andrew’s Law after the implementation of the Commonwealth’s own antihazing law, the “Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law,” began in 2018. A cursory review of both laws suggests that while the Florida statute applies a broader definition to the term “hazing”, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law imposes a greater administrative burden on institutions by requiring biannual reporting and maintenance of records of hazing violations.

Starting with the basic definition of the term “hazing”, it is evident that Florida’s antihazing law is broader in scope. Whereas Pennsylvania’s statute defines hazing as an act (“A person commits the offense of hazing if the person…causes, COERCES OR FORCES”) (emphasis in original), Florida expands the definition to mean “any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student…” (emphasis added). The Florida legislature wrapped into this definition the same active tense verbiage as the Pennsylvania statute, making the Florida statute more global in reach.

While the two laws carry their fair share of similarities, they stray in several distinct areas:

Andrew's Law (Florida)

  • Applies to individuals committing the act of hazing or to those actively involved in the planning of the acts;
  • Institutional penalties applied to violating organizations;
  • Institution must adopt written antihazing policy and provide to each student.

Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law (Pennsylvania)

  • Applies to individuals committing the act of hazing, organizations violating the hazing law, and institutions committing hazing violations;
  • Contains an enhanced punishment for “aggravated hazing”;
  • State and institutional penalties applied to violating organizations;
  • Provides for state-imposed sanctions against institutions;
  • Institution must adopt written policy against hazing and: 1) provide a copy to each organization, 2) “ensure” students are informed of the policy, and 3) post the policy on the institutions publically accessible website;
  • Institutions must maintain reports of all violations and must:
    • update the reports biannually;
    • maintain the updated reports on their publically accessible website;
    • maintain the reports for five years.

 

Some in the industry have initially interpreted Andrew’s Law as a tough measure designed to cut down on hazing violations—both on and off-campus. Notwithstanding the law’s more limited scope, however, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law actually imposes more onerous burdens on institutions in terms of reporting, data management, and proliferating written hazing policies to the student body.