BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The House’s education committee approved a bill Wednesday, May 15 that would require campus organizations and university officials to contact law enforcement as soon as they learn of any hazing allegations.
Under current law, organizations have 14 days to conduct an internal investigation to determine the accuracy of those allegations before notifying law enforcement. University officials are essentially excluded from that law and do not have to make initial reports to law enforcement, though they are expected to cooperate with investigations.
“Fourteen days is just way too long,” East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said. “The quicker law enforcement can reach out and capture social social media and cell phone information and locate witnesses to get statements from them... it’s important.”
Moore noted that organization members are typically not comfortable offering witness testimony that might incriminate a fellow member, meaning physical evidence is especially important to the prosecution’s case.
But during a 14-day grace period, Moore says forensic evidence can wash away and students can delete potentially incriminating texts or videos.
“That’s what law enforcement was telling me was causing some issues,” said Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette.
Landry’s bill would require any organization officer or representative and any university official to report hazing allegations to police immediately after they’re made aware of the rumors, punishable by a $10,000 fine for failing to do so.
“Accountability is important in everything that we do,” UL System President Jim Henderson said. “It’s important that we send that lesson to our students to prepare them for what comes after college.”
The committee approved the bill without much debate. It now heads to the House floor, though it could be dual-referred to the Criminal Justice Committee before it reaches the Senate.