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Gov. Wolf Signs Timothy Piazza Antihazing Law

by on October 19, 2018 5:23 PM

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed into law major new anti-hazing legislation introduced following death of Penn State student and fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.

The Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law, introduced earlier this year by state Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, toughens criminal penalties for hazing and increases requirements for institutions and organizations.

Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore and fraternity pledge, sustained fatal injuries in February 2017 after falling during an alcohol-fueled initiation at the now-banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

“Tim’s tragic experience has led to real change. There is no place for hazing on our college campuses. And together, we will protect students and hold accountable those who engage in it,” said Governor Wolf. “We mourn for Tim’s loss with his family, and while we can never fix what they’ve gone through, this new law will help to prevent other tragedies.

At the bill signing in Harrisburg, Wolf and Corman were joined by Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn, brother, Michael, Penn State President Eric Barron, and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Greenstein.

“I commend the Piazza family for their strength and courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy,” Corman said. “Their tireless efforts have made these significant reforms a reality here in Pennsylvania that will save lives. This law will be a model for changing antihazing laws throughout the nation with the Piazzas’ efforts leading the way.”

The new law, which goes into effect in November, adds aggravated hazing, a third-degree felony, for hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death. Hazing that results in bodily injury remains a misdemeanor. 

It defines hazing as making a condition of membership consuming any food, drink, alcohol, drugs or other substance which subjects a minor or student to physical or emotional harm; enduring mental, physical or sexual brutality; and any other activity that creates a reasonable likelihood of harm.

New organizational and institutional hazing provisions also are included in the legislation for entities that knowingly or recklessly allow hazing or aggravated hazing to occur. Penalties can include forfeiture of property.

Schools are required to have anti-hazing rules, enforcement policies and preventative measures and to make information about hazing violations available to the public.

It also establishes a safe harbor clause for students who call for emergency help for an individual who has been hazed also is included. Similar to the state's drug overdose immunity law, the person who calls for help and waits with the victim for emergency personnel to arrive would be immune from prosecution for hazing.

“With proper prosecution and stiff sentencing, these laws will be effective,” Jim Piazza said. “Our young people deserve better, and we must protect them from this rampant criminal behavior.”

Barron said he is hopeful the legislation along with other measures will "prevent another tragedy from occurring.” He added, however, that change is needed nationwide.

“This action signifies important movement in an ongoing conversation to identify meaningful solutions that create transformational change," Barron said. "Unfortunately, hazing continues to plague universities across the country, and we hope this law will serve as a model for other state legislatures to effect critically needed national reform. Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue.”

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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