Hazing has long been practiced in marching bands, particularly at historically black colleges like FAMU in the South, where the band is often as revered as the football team and members are campus celebrities.
Much of the hazing reported at FAMU has involved students trying to get into certain cliques within the band, and it has typically included punching, slapping and paddling.
Solomon Badger, chairman of the FAMU board of trustees, said the school is doing everything it can to eradicate hazing. He said of the charges: “I hope this wraps its arm around everything we have been plagued with the last six months.”
Richard Sigal, a retired sociology professor at the County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J., who holds anti-hazing workshops at schools, said he could not recall another hazing case with so many defendants. Most cases don’t result in criminal charges, and those that do typically end in plea bargains with little or no jail time, Sigal said.
Champion’s parents have sued the bus company owner, claiming the driver stood guard outside while the hazing took place. The company said the driver was helping band members with their equipment.
The lawsuit described two types of hazing that took place on the bus.
In one ritual, students ran from the front of the bus to the back while other band members slapped, kicked and hit them. A student who fell was stomped and dragged to the front to run again.
In a ritual known as “the hot seat,” a pillowcase was placed over the student’s nose and mouth and he or she was forced to answer questions. If the student gave the correct answer, the pillowcase was removed briefly; a student who supplied a wrong answer was given another question without a chance to take a breath, the lawsuit said.
In a separate incident at FAMU, three people were charged with severely beating a woman’s legs with their fists and a metal ruler last fall to initiate her into a clique of band members from Georgia. The woman suffered a broken thigh.
Also, four band members were arrested earlier this year and charged with hazing for allegedly punching, slapping and paddling five students from the clarinet section.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for two FAMU music professors who allegedly were present during a hazing of band members in 2010 said they have been forced out.
Former drum major Timothy Barber said the charges could help stop hazing at FAMU. “It kind of strikes a level of fear in people, that this hasn’t stopped and it’s not going to be tolerated,” he said.
In some other major hazing cases around the country, four former students at California Polytechnic State University pleaded no contest and were sentenced to about a month in jail in 2010 in the drinking death of a fraternity pledge.
In 2005, four fraternity members at California State University pleaded guilty in the death of a student who was forced to drink large amounts of water during an initiation. The most serious charge was involuntary manslaughter, resulting in a one-year sentence for one member. Two others pleaded guilty to accessory to manslaughter and got six months.
Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.
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