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Sam’s Law Act: complying with recent legislation to maintain institutional recognition

“Failure of a social fraternity or sorority organization to comply . . . shall result in automatic loss of recognition until such time that the organization comes into compliance.”

- Wash. Rev. Code § 28B.10.908(4)

 

Beginning in fall 2022, social fraternal organizations with chapters located in Washington State must comply with new misconduct reporting requirements, including mandatory updates to organizations’ websites and existing policies related to college and university communications and relationships.


In June 2022, Sam’s Law Act (“Sam’s Law”) went effect in Washington State. Sam’s Law was named in honor of Sam Martinez, a 19-year-old student who died as a result of hazing in 2019. Amending various provisions of Wash. Rev. Code Section 28B.10.900, Sam’s Law updated the definition of hazing and imposes new requirements on social fraternal organizations operating chapters within the state.


Specifically, beginning with the 2022 fall academic term, fraternal organizations with chapters at “any public or private institution of higher education” within Washington State must:

  • Notify the college or university where a chapter is recognized when it initiates an investigation of a chapter “for hazing or other activity that includes an element of hazing, such as furnishing alcohol to minors,” and provide to the institution’s student conduct office “the results of such investigation and a copy of the fulling findings report.”

  • Update “the landing pages of all websites owned or maintained by the local chapter” to include a complete list “of all findings of violations” against the chapter “of antihazing policies, state or federal laws related to hazing, alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, or physical assault, or the institution’s code of conduct.”

  • Certify in writing to the college or university where the chapter is recognized that the chapter’s website has been updated to comply with Sam's Law and provide relevant weblinks to the college or university.

Wash. Rev. Code § 28B.10.908(2)-(3).


Moreover, Sam’s Law may impact organizational volunteers, potentially requiring them to report possible incidents of hazing to colleges and universities. Specifically, Sam’s Law requires that volunteers and employees report possible incidents of hazing “to a designated authority at the institution” if the employee or volunteer “has reasonable cause to believe that hazing has occurred” because of “observations or information received in the course of employment or volunteer service.” Although it defines “employee,” Sam’s Law does not define who falls under the term “volunteer.”


Significantly, failure to comply with Sam’s Law results in automatic loss of recognition for the relevant chapter. Organizations, as a result, should take immediate steps to ensure that organizational leadership and volunteers understand and are prepared to support chapters in complying with the new reporting requirements for fall 2022.


Moving Forward

Organizations should note that Washington State joins a number of other states that have recently enacted new reporting requirements in state law for organizational leadership and volunteers--specifically, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas.


Further, effective July 2022 in the State of Virginia, Adam’s Law requires private and public colleges and universities within the state to provide hazing prevention training to “each current member, new member, and potential new member of each student organization.” Of note, the law includes new requirements for advisors of a student organization, who also “shall receive such hazing prevention training.”


Our attorneys are available to support your organization’s leadership in navigating each state’s hazing laws. We are equipped with the necessary competency to navigate issues of hazing, alcohol, drugs, sexual assault, or physical assault, and our experience serving culturally based fraternal organizations provides us an unmatched perspective to advise you and your leadership.




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