By BRENT KALLESTAD (Associated Press)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson said Tuesday she plans to introduce a federal anti-hazing bill designed to ensure no one endures a beating like one that led to the death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion last month.
Wilson, a first-term Democrat from Miami who previously served a dozen years in the Florida Legislature, said she plans to have the proposed legislation ready when the House returns from its holiday break in January.
”Hazing is demeaning, dangerous, and, sadly, deadly,” Wilson said. ”It’s time that we put an end to this horrible and humiliating ritual once and for all, so that no more students suffer the way that Robert and others have.”
The medical examiner’s office in Orlando found that Champion suffered bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and the resulting internal bleeding caused him to go into shock, which killed him. The death was declared a homicide by the medical examiners. Police say Champion was punched and paddled in a hazing ritual Nov. 19 during the Marching 100 band trip to the annual Florida Classic in Orlando.
Champion’s death and the severe beating of another band member during a hazing ritual three weeks earlier have brought the most recent, but most intense, scrutiny to a culture of hazing within the university’s famed Marching 100 band.
Freshman clarinet player Bria Shante Hunter reported she was assaulted Oct. 31 in a hazing ritual in an off-campus apartment.
Hunter, who subsequently surrendered a full-ride, four-year music scholarship and left FAMU, was beaten so severely that she suffered a broken thigh bone and had blood clots in her legs.
Tallahassee police arrested three men they believe were involved in the Hunter assault. Sean Hobson, 23, and 19-year-old Aaron Golson, were charged with hazing and battery. James Harris, 22, was charged with hazing.
Hazing has been a troublesome issue at Florida A&M and other historically black colleges for decades.
In 2001, FAMU band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle. Three years earlier, Ivery Luckey, a clarinet player from Ocala, Fla., said he was paddled around 300 times, sending him to the hospital and leaving him physically and emotionally scarred.
”I am having policy discussions now with presidents of historically-Black colleges and universities, band members and presidents of Greek-letter organizations,” Wilson said in a statement from her office. Wilson said she was counting on those talks to help her ”craft a strong bill for introduction next month.”
Florida already has an anti-hazing statute in place, but it’s likely the latest Florida A&M calamity will be vetted in some fashion by state lawmakers when they return to the Capitol to begin the 2012 session on Jan. 10. It’s already become a rather hot potato for politicians, including Gov. Rick Scott. The governor’s recommendation that FAMU President James Ammons be placed on administrative leave until the hazing investigations are completed was ignored by FAMU’s trustees. Band director Julian White, who was fired by Ammons, has been place on administrative leave instead and four students dismissed by the university were reinstated while authorities work on their investigations.