Florida A&M University has asked a judge to drop a civil lawsuit, arguing that Robert Champion, who died in a hazing incident, is to blame for his own death. This is by far the most asinine statement I have heard of late. It is not only in poor taste, but lacks sensitivity.
Florida’s State Law defines Hazing as any circumstance in which a party purposely endangers the physical or mental health of a person by pressuring or coercing him/her to violate the law, forcing consumption of food, drugs or alcohol, committing physical abuse or inducing mental stress through sleep deprivation or any activity that compromises dignity.
FAMU attorneys in an attempt to rid themselves of blame stated that Robert Champion should have refused to participate in the hazing, and reported it to police or the university. It comes as the school defends itself from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Champion's parents. FAMU has asked a judge to drop the civil lawsuit.
However, their request to have the lawsuit dropped will be denied because it is contrary to the Hazing Law of Florida.
Florida’s Hazing law states that it does not permit those accused of hazing to offer certain types of defenses. Examples include the consent of the victim and the fact that the activity was not officially sanctioned by the organization or required as part of entry into the organization. None of these reasons would permit a defendant to seek a lesser charge.
Also Florida’s Hazing Policies requires any educational institution, public or private, where students receive state aid to officially outline an anti-hazing policy that explicitly forbids any activity defined as such. The school must also prepare an official set of regulations and penalties and carry out such penalties. Possible penalties include fines, suspension or dismissal of students and disbandment of offending organizations. These rules apply to both on and off campus hazing activities.
Finally, anyone found guilty of Hazing can face charges of a first degree misdemeanor if he/she intentionally commits any act upon another that poses a risk of physical injury or death. In Florida, a first degree misdemeanor carries a fine up to $1000 and a year in jail. If hazing activities result in serious injury or death, the defendant can face charges of a third degree felony which carries a prison term up to five years and a fine of up to $5000.
FAMU lawyers’ assertion that Robert Champion is somehow responsible for his own death is without merit. The Champions have lost a son to a senseless ritual or so-called right of passage that was accepted by many as Tradition.
In closing, whether Robert Champion agreed to be hazed or not...Hazing is illegal and the school will be found totally liable. Numerous other laws were broken also. To say that one caused their own death when an illegal act is being committed is ludicrous. I can’t say I know how the Champions feel after the loss of a child, but as a parent I feel their pain. No parent should have to bury their child…the child is suppose to bury the parent. I hope and pray that the Champions receive justice and compensation for their loss.