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NJ is considering stricter penalties for hazing crimes

<p>Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-16), a bill sponsor, said college students have the right to learn in an environment without fear.</p>

Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-16), a bill sponsor, said college students have the right to learn in an environment without fear.

A New Jersey bill that would impose stricter penalties on those found guilty of hazing has been approved by a state Senate committee, according to NJ Advance Media.

The legislation has been named after New Jersey native Timothy Piazza, a Pennsylvania State University student who died in 2012 from a fall, caused by a night of heavy drinking and hazing at a college fraternity, according to the article. 

“College students have the right to live and learn in a safe environment without fear, and parents who send their child off to school should demand no less,” said Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-N.J.), a bill sponsor. “Unless we explicitly prohibit the deep-rooted custom of hazing, more families will suffer. It is my hope that this tragedy leads to real change."

If passed, those found guilty of hazing or aggravated hazing would receive a third degree penalty, instead of the current fourth degree punishments that are law, according to the article. 

Hazing is classified as something by a fraternity, sorority or other collegiate organization that results in “serious bodily harm,” according to the article. 

The new bill would also include hazing as a crime that results from “causing, coercing or forcing the consumption of alcohol or drugs.”

“Hazing always is a planned event. It always has intent to it. These are not things that happen just by happenstance. These are things that are well-orchestrated and planned. And the individuals that are perpetrating, that are carrying them out, are taking other students' lives in their hands,” said James Piazza, Timothy Piazza’s father.

James Piazza and his wife have been traveling around the country trying to convince states to enact stricter laws on hazing, according to the article. He spoke in front of the Senate committee on Tuesday. 

"And without stiffer legislation and without legislation that is easier to prosecute, it’s going to continue to happen and we want it to stop. We want to put an end to it. And that’s going to probably require some individuals going to jail,” James Piazza said. 

Timothy Piazza died in February 2017 after a bid ceremony at Beta Theta Pi at Pennsylvania State University. He fell down the stairs, and then nearly 12 hours passed before help was called, according to the article. 

Three members of the fraternity who were involved in the hazing that led to Timothy Piazza’s death were sentenced in April, according to USA Today

One person was sentenced to 30 days to six months in prison on three counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy, and another was sentenced to 2 to 6 months and fined $2,500 on six counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy, according to the article. 

Initially, more than a dozen people were charged, including some charges of involuntary manslaughter, some of which have been dropped or thrown out by a judge, according to the article. 

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