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An Important Statement by Ev Piazza

On 2/3/17 our life changed forever. We received the phone call no parent should ever have to receive. Our son Tim died more than 4 years ago as a result of egregious and irresponsible fraternity hazing at Penn State University.  He was given lethal amounts of alcohol as part of a hazing ritual called the gauntlet.  He fell down a flight of stairs, was knocked unconscious and was severely bruised across his body.  Despite being in distress, none of the fraternity members were willing to help him for fear of getting in trouble. Some even prevented others from helping. So instead they watched him slowly die in front of them until they all went to bed.

 

Just one month earlier we were on a family trip in Pasadena, CA to see Penn State play in the Rose Bowl and then sent Tim and his brother back to school to continue their college journey. It has been four years since we have had the opportunity to see his smiling face, enjoy his magnetic sense of humor and receive one of his big bear hugs. Now we only get to visit with him in our dreams.  Our family of 4 became a family of 3 overnight because of fraternity hazing.  Since Feb 2017 we have been in numerous courtrooms and hearings seeking justice for our son’s death. Unfortunately, the PA law at the time was weak and did not carry meaningful penalties.  Yet, the criminal trials continue to this day and are currently sitting in appeals.  We have since been able to get the law changed in Pennsylvania, which became the toughest in the country.  Today we are here to see a very similar law be signed in NJ.  No parent should ever be concerned about sending their child off to college with his or her life or well-being put at risk just to join an organization.

 

We are grateful to Senator Kip Bateman for introducing the Timothy J Piazza Law against hazing in the State of New Jersey.  We are also grateful to the other Senators and Assemblymen and women, as well as Governor Murphy, who supported the law’s passing. What most people do not know is that this law was initiated by a 12-year old boy who wrote a letter as part of a Boy Scout project to his local Senator (Senator Bateman) asking him to stiffen the laws in the State of New Jersey to deter people from engaging in hazing and hold people accountable for those that do – the egregious and life threatening behavior that took the life of his friend, our son, Tim.  If a 12-year-old boy can recognize the difference between what is right and wrong and what it means to be a friend and inclusive, we are hopeful that others will learn from this.  No young man or woman should ever be subjected to life threatening behavior for just wanting to be included.  Too many young people have been hurt or killed as a result of hazing activities gone bad across the country. New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, will now have the toughest anti-hazing law in the country thanks to this young man and the people who supported it.

And now I would like to address schools, police and DA’s. You have been given a strong tool to use against hazing – please use it to its fullest extent. Do not overlook behaviors because you think the it was “all in good fun” or use the “boys will be boys” mentality. Hazing is always done with the intent to cause harm (let me say that again – hazing is always done with the intent to cause harm) be it physical or psychological and with the knowledge that it will cause harm. Most of the time hazing starts out small and the level of harm and danger builds progressively, but occasionally (as in our son Tim’s case) it is full strength from the start. Do not overlook this behavior and give the green light to play Russian Roulette with kids’ lives. Protect our children, hold people accountable and deter the dangerous practice of hazing.

Thank you again for your continued support.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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