Updated: Anti-hazing legislation heading to Ohio Senate

Following the death of a Bowling Green State University student in an alleged hazing incident, new
legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Ohio Senate, with support of the Inter-University Council of
Ohio. Actions have also been taken in the House and the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Ohio Senators Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, and Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, are joint sponsors.
“The idea of this bill, while it does enhance penalties, the idea is to push a change in campus culture,”
Gavarone said.
BGSU sophomore Stone Foltz died Sunday after an alleged hazing incident off campus on Thursday. He
reportedly drank a bottle of alcohol.
“That one really shook me to the core,” said Gavarone, who is a BGSU graduate. “Certainly, your heart
just breaks for the family. I can’t even imagine. You send your child to college and you just have so
many hopes for a bright future and so many dreams, and then to get a call like this is unimaginable. It
hits close to home.
“Our son is a junior at BGSU right now. He did not know Stone Foltz directly, but he has a lot of friends
who did. It just really hits hard.”
They are adjusting legislation that was previously called Collin’s Law. Collin Wiant, an Ohio University
freshman who died from a hazing incident on Nov. 12, 2018. The anti-hazing bill was approved in the Ohio
House in the last session which was named after him. It then went to the Senate and was not voted on in
the last season.
On Monday, Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, along with state Rep. Michael Sheehy, D-Oregon,
re-introduced a bill in the statehouse formerly known as House Bill 310, or Collin’s Law: The Ohio
Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act.
“Previous legislation passed overwhelmingly in the House with broad bipartisan support in the last
General Assembly,” Ghanbari said.
While the re-introduced bill will have to go through the legislative process again, it is starting off
where the last one finished.
Gavarone said that the new legislation differs from the way it was previously introduced in the Senate.
This new bill would elevate the hazing penalties and no longer include bullying legislation that bogged
it down in the education committee, she said. With the bill not leaving that committee, senators
couldn’t vote on it, she said.
“The Senate has been working on that legislation and working with interested parties for two years. Ours
is going to be a little different. This doesn’t deal with bullying. It focuses on hazing,” Gavarone
said.
The bill would do more than just remove the sections that held it in committee.
“It adds specificity to the definition of hazing, but creates an offense of aggravated hazing, which
would be a second-degree felony. It has some reporting requirements in there, if hazing is happening,
and it requires the chancellor of higher education to develop a state-wide educational plan for
preventing hazing. It’s really to be a model policy that would be distributed to all institutions of
higher education in Ohio,” Gavarone said.
The Ohio chancellor of higher education also has Bowling Green ties. Randy Gardner is a BGSU graduate and
he is a former state senator and representative from Bowling Green.
“I understand, from talking with the senators, that there may be provisions in the bill that provide some
direction to universities regarding hazing from the chancellor’s office. I have not been involved in
drafting that, but certainly if the legislator believes that there is a role to play in providing the
best support and guidance possible, we would like to be involved in that, but that is the prerogative of
the legislature to right the laws,” Gardner said.
He has already asked the public universities provide his office with anti-hazing policies, which his
office is now reviewing.
There has been communication between the offices and Gov. Mike DeWine.
“I basically represent the governor in this process and the governor has said publicly, strongly, that he
supports stronger penalties, criminal penalties, for hazing violations,” Gardner said. “There are 10 or
11 other states that have hazing as some form of a felony and this bill, when introduced, is likely to
include felony provisions for being involved in hazing, especially if drugs or alcohol are involved.”

Gardner was part of a call held Tuesday morning with presidents of the state’s public universities with
DeWine.
“The governor basically made clear his support for legislation that would strengthen anti-hazing laws,”
Gardner said. “We will be as involved as the legislators would like us to be involved in the process.
Respectfully, it is a legislative matter in terms of whether the law gets changed or not. I think there
is pretty strong bi-partisan support to work on this issue.”
The Inter-University Council of Ohio, in a letter signed by all 14 Ohio public university presidents,
supports the legislation.
“This bill has teeth, which we applaud. Those who engage in the hazing of others will know that their
anti-social, bullying behavior will result in a felony conviction with real prison time if they cause
harm to another through hazing. This legislation will be a deterrent and should cause those who would
seek to perpetrate these abhorrent activities on others to think twice before doing so and may even stop
them from engaging in such aberrant behavior, altogether,” the letter stated.
“This proposal, when enacted, will expand the definition of hazing to capture more activity that could
constitute hazing, create a variety of new criminal hazing offenses, and increase penalties for being
convicted of those hazing offenses. It will impose a robust educational and reporting requirement on
students and personnel at all institutions of higher education in Ohio.”