Valdosta Daily Times

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November 9, 2012

Florida A&M offers $300,000 to end hazing lawsuit

ORLANDO, Fla. — An attorney for the family of a Florida A&M University drum major who died following a hazing incident said Thursday that a $300,000 settlement offer from the school is “insulting.”

The amount offered is the maximum amount the university can pay without seeking approval by the Florida Legislature.

Attorney Chris Chestnut said it showed that the university wasn’t serious about resolving the case with Robert Champion’s family. Chestnut wouldn’t say what amount the family would consider acceptable.

“Three hundred thousand dollars is substantively low,” Chestnut said.

The school’s settlement offer was made less than a week after efforts at all-day mediation failed last Friday in Orlando.

“It is our hope that this settlement will be accepted and can in some way help in the healing process for the Champion family and the entire FAMU community,” said Richard Mitchell, an attorney for FAMU.

Robert Champion died nearly a year ago after being beaten by fellow band members aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel.  

Champion’s parents filed a lawsuit contending university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the famed Marching 100 band just days before their son died. The lawsuit also alleges that school officials fell short in enforcing anti-hazing policies.

Larry Robinson, FAMU’s interim president, would not comment directly on the offer.

“We are in negotiations and we are working with our legal team to move this matter forward,” said Robinson, who was in Sarasota attending a meeting of the state board that oversees the university system.

Back in September FAMU asked a judge to throw out the Champion lawsuit. That court filing said the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds, including that Champion should have refused to participate in hazing events and should have reported it to police.

The university also said at the time that taxpayers should not be held liable for Champion’s decision.

The scandal surrounding Champion’s death continues to haunt the school.

The band has been suspended for the academic year, and the longtime band director and university president have resigned. The Florida Board of Governors is expected this month to release the results of a year-long probe into whether top university officials ignored warnings about hazing.

The first of more than a dozen defendants charged in Champion’s death last month entered a plea of no contest to third-degree felony hazing. Ten other FAMU band members face felony hazing charges, while two others face misdemeanor counts for alleged roles in Champion’s hazing

University officials have responded by putting in a long line of new policies, including new requirements for band membership and new requirements for all students at the school.

———

Follow Gary Fineout on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fineout

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

 

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