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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Frederica Wilson's federal hazing bill may include penalties for bystanders of rituals



Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to introduce a federal hazing ban when she returns to Congress in mid-January. Details of the bill aren't yet ironed out,  though she is consulting officials from the Justice Department and universities to figure out how far she can go, she said.

"I've been toying with different scenarios," she told The Buzz. "I want it to be broad enough to affect a lot of people so they will stop."

She wants her bill to target the people who haze, the person being hazed and those who are present for the ritual and "don't report it or intervene."

"You're just as guilty as the people that are actually striking or participating in the hazing," she said.

Her effort comes as state and county investigators piece together the events leading up to the death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, whose death is considered a homicide as a result of severe beatings from a hazing ritual Nov. 19. He was 26.

Under Florida law, hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death is a felony. The law is obviously not enough, Wilson said, to discourage long-standing and covert hazing practices that occur in marching bands and Greek organizations.

Wilson said she discouraged her son Paul from pledging a fraternity when he attended FAMU in the early '90s. She was regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the time and had suspended several pledge classes as a result of hazing.

"You've got to make it strong enough for this generation of children," she said. "They feel that they're invincible, so you have to make something strong enough to put fear into their bellies."

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 10:29am]


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