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Illinois lawmaker aims to do more to prevent hazing in college sports

While Northwestern University leaders remained quiet on Tuesday, one Illinois lawmaker was voicing his support for stronger anti-hazing laws.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey dug into the proposed College Athlete Bill of Rights.

Hazing is already illegal in Illinois, so CBS 2 wanted to ask the lawmaker, State Rep. Kam Buckner (D), what else his legislation does, and if other states are doing it better.

Days before the news of football coach Pat Fitzgerald’s firing broke, Buckner vowed to file legislation that creates the athlete bill of rights to codify what he says “true protection should look like.”

“We would be, I think, the first state in the country to do it in a holistic way,” he said.

Buckner is a former University of Illinois defensive tackle.

“This is super personal to me,” he added.

He knows firsthand what could be at stake for some student-athletes.

“If I was in this position, if I would have stepped forward and said anything, you run the risk of jeopardizing the scholarship, right?” Buckner said.

That is why the lawmaker wants to mandate an “ombudsman,” a person who athletes can come to, other than a coach, to whistleblow without fear of retaliation. Buckner said the bulk of the law would be modeled after similar legislation in California which went into effect more than a decade ago.

“There is such a fear of coming forward,” said Dr. Elizabeth Allan, with the organization STOP Hazing.

Allan has studied anti-hazing across the country. According to their analysis, 44 of 50 states have anti-hazing laws in place, but the strength of the laws vary significantly.

“But we also have to look at shifting the culture to support the likelihood that those laws and policies will be used,” Allan said.

She said the ombudsman role would be helpful and should the legislation take effect, Illinois would be among the states with the strongest protections.

“We need to have more people who are able to be there and support students,” she said.

Buckner said lawmakers are still in the drafting stage of the bill, but he plans to introduce it within the next week or so, with hopes of a first hearing in October.

Source: Cbs News