The term “hazing” is used to broadly describe a wide range of social rituals designed to humiliate or embarrass the subject. Sometimes hazing is nothing more than a silly prank. But when it involves physical or sexual abuse of any kind, that crosses a line–and the victims have the right to seek damages via a personal injury lawsuit.
L.A. v. Riverside Military Academy
Hazing has been in the news recently here in Georgia due to a lawsuit filed against Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. The lawsuit was filed in Georgia federal court on November 15, 2018. The plaintiff is identified only by the initials “L.A.” According to the complaint, the now-18-year-old L.A. attended Riverside when he was between the ages of 12 and 13. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because L.A. currently lives in Chicago.
The complaint alleges that Riverside officials assigned L.A. a roommate with a long history of physical and sexual abuse. Not only was the roommate “an older, bigger cadet” than L.A., the roommate was also the subject of multiple prior complaints alleging he was a “chronic abuser and an incorrigible, disciplinary problem.” With respect to L.A., the complaint alleges the roommate “did beat, punch, bang his head against the wall, strongly grabbed [his] testicles, and recruited other cadets to inflict said hazing and punishment.” As part of this hazing, L.A. named a second cadet who “stuck him with sharp objects.”
After L.A.’s mother reported the roommate’s abuse to Riverside officials, things only got worse. The lawsuit alleges the roommate committed multiple acts of sexual assault, including anal penetration, forcing L.A. to perform oral sex and masturbation, and repeatedly grabbing and yanking L.A.’s testicles. The lawsuit maintains the roommate committed these acts “to gain status” within Riverside Academy and that the school did nothing to protect L.A. from this ongoing abuse.
The lawsuit points to Georgia state law as well as Riverside’s own “Cadet Regulations Codebook,” both of which clearly prevent hazing of the type described above. The complaint further alleges Riverside failed to report L.A.’s physical and sexual abuse “to the proper Georgia authorities,” as required by state law. In addition to the school, the lawsuit also names as defendants the cadets who allegedly abused L.A., and several military officers who served as Riverside administrators during the time in question. The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in compensatory damages, as well as an unspecified amount of punitive damages “to deter others from committing like misconduct” in the future.
It must be noted that a complaint is merely a statement of allegations. L.A.’s lawsuit remains pending before a federal judge. Riverside has not formally filed an answer to the lawsuit as of this writing. In a statement to NBC News on November 30, Riverside’s director of marketing and public affairs said, “It is difficult to comment on this matter, since we neither know the details of the allegations nor have we been served with the lawsuit.” Nevertheless, the official emphasized, “The safety and well-being of our cadets is and has always been our priority.”