Parents of Robert Champion blast FAMU stance on son's hazing death

Parents of Robert Champion blast FAMU stance on son's hazing death

POSTED: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 1:15pm

UPDATED: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 1:19pm

The parents of the Florida A&M drum major who died during a hazing ritual last year say the university continues to deny it suffers an entrenched problem.

Pam and Robert Champion Sr. spoke to reporters Thursday, days after FAMU filed court documents saying that the institution was not responsible for their son's death. The university's response to a lawsuit by the family said Robert Champion Jr. broke the law and school policies when he willingly took part in the hazing that left him dead.

"My reaction is that the school did not take the responsibility to keep my son safe," Robert Champion Sr. said.

His wife added, "To get a paper that says that he's responsible for his own death -- as a mother, I have to wonder what kind of people are we entrusting our students to."

After reading the court filing, Pam Champion said, she concluded that the school does not have the best interests or safety of students in mind.

Champion died in November 2011 following his beating on a bus in Orlando, Florida, after a football game at which the school's famed marching band performed.

The ritual, called "Crossing Bus C," was an initiation in which pledges try to run down a bus's center aisle while being assaulted by senior members, according to some university band members.

Fourteen people since have been charged criminal hazing in the case.

In July, Champion's parents filed a lawsuit against the school's board of trustees, the company that owns the bus in which the abuse occurred, and the driver of the bus.

The family's lawyer, Christopher Chestnut, said Thursday that the aim of the lawsuit is not to destroy FAMU, but to restore accountability to it.

"Our aim today is not to hurt Florida A&M University, but our aim today is to ensure students are safe."

In the school's filing, it asked the judge to drop the wrongful death lawsuit, arguing that Champion should have refused to participate and reported the hazing.

"In reading these 30 pages of denial, I was nauseated," Chestnut said, referring to the documents.

What the family is seeking in suing the university is to create a legacy of justice and safety, he said.

"Clearly, the school does not accept that fact that there is a problem of hazing in the band. And until they accept that, they can't correct it," Chestnut said.

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