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Hazing death inquiry at Florida A&M: New incident, new investigation

December 14, 2011 |  3:20 pm

The investigation into last month's suspected hazing death of a Florida A&M University drum major has revealed a new allegation of hazing, spurred a Georgia school district to ban all marching band activities until further notice, and triggered a new inquiry into possible fraud and wrongdoing.

A freshman band member plans to file suit following an alleged hazing attack that took place just days before the death of drum major Robert Champion, 26. Three male students have been charged with beating Bria Hunter so badly that they broke her leg and caused blood clotting in her thigh. "She was beaten by hands, fists, spatulas, metal rulers and book binders," her attorney, B.J. Bernstein, told the media.

ESPN.com was reporting that Hunter had been beaten as a way to initiate her into the Red Dawg Order, made up of students from Georgia.

Meanwhile, an Atlanta-area school district -- where both Hunter and Champion attended high school -- has temporarily suspended all marching band activities.

Walter Woods, a spokesman for the DeKalb County school district, said the ban was launched after a district-wide investigation into possible hazing turned up allegations of "inappropriate physical activity" between students. The inquiry appears to center around two incidents that took place over the summer. He declined to characterize the incidents during an interview with the Associated Press, but said students did not require hospitalization.

After graduating from high school in Georgia, Champion went on to become a drum major in the Florida A&M school band. He was found on a school bus, unresponsive, after a Nov. 19 football game. Authorities have said that hazing played a role, but they have not released details as they continue to investigate. The school’s band director, Julian White, was fired after the death, and at least four students have been expelled.

The latest development in the Champion case might not have anything to do with the student's death. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement this week told the university that investigators uncovered possible evidence of fraud and misconduct as they were looking into the death of Champion. Officials declined to discuss details of the fraud investigation but said a separate, unrelated inquiry is now underway, according to Time.

Florida A&M has a strict anti-hazing policy, but authorities believe the rules are flouted because of a cultural "veil of secrecy" that protects violators.

Some band members told CNN that Champion's death could have been caused by a ritual called "crossing Bus C." It requires the hazing victim to walk from the front of the bus to the back -- while fellow band members attack. The reason? "For respect."

Florida A&M officials have vowed to put an end to such activities that some students seemingly deem a right of passage.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

 

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