Blog : Hazing

Parents of Andrew Coffey Push for New Hazing Law

Andrew Coffey’s Parents Push for New Hazing Law after Death of FSU Pledge

The dangers of hazing and excessive drinking are becoming increasingly more apparent. The parents of Andrew Coffey, who lost their son due to alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party, are pushing to make hazing a federal crime. CBS reports:

In a story you’ll see only on “CBS This Morning,” we hear from the parents of Florida State University student Andrew Coffey, who police say died from alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party. Parents Tom and Sandra Coffey are pushing for a new law against hazing.

“If this can go to Washington, D.C., it could be the Andrew Coffey Law. Is that something you’d like to see?” CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked them.

“Yes. Yes,” Tom said

“Yeah. Yeah, can’t be for nothing. I mean, I don’t—” Sandra said.

“Yeah, he can’t have died for nothing,” Tom said.

“No,” Sandra said.

“There has to be purpose,” Tom added. “And if people in the past had gotten together, maybe my son would still be here. … It just can’t go on. It can’t go on anymore.”

The Coffeys tell us how they’re trying to save lives by making hazing a federal crime.

Watch Tuesday, March 13, 2018, on “CBS This Morning,” which airs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET/PT. 

The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law, a team of lawyers experienced in defending victims and families affected by fraternity hazing deaths and injury, extend their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Andrew Coffey.

Parents Whose Children Died Take Collective Aim at Hazing

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie Lanahan

Debbie Smith, founder of the non-profit AHA!: Anti Hazing Awareness, will host an inaugural meeting of families who have lost their children to hazing on university campuses all across the nation.

The group plans to strategize on how to accomplish several key goals, including getting better educational programming on hazing in middle and high schools, strengthening state and federal laws on hazing, and changing the culture on college campuses, said Smith, a San Francisco Bay area resident, who uses the initials “MM” after her name for “Matt’s mom.” The parents have invited anti-hazing advocates and college student affairs administrators to speak. There are no plans to raise money, but that could change once a platform is developed, Smith said.

Read more on The Inquirer.

Penn State Frat Hit by Judge’s Statewide Ban in Hazing Case

Pi Delta Psi fraternity faces a 10 year ban from operating any chapters in Pennsylvania.

Doug Fierberg, who has represented many clients in lawsuits against fraternities and is representing the Dengs in multiple civil suits against Pi Delta Psi and its members, also was heartened by the rulings.

“It recognizes that chapters are agents and mere extensions of national fraternities and they are responsible for the injury and death caused across this country for decades,” he said.


Michael Deng Case: Fraternity, Four Men to be Sentenced in Hazing Death

Doug Fierberg, an attorney for Deng’s family, said prosecutors in the Piazza case could learn from the outcome of the Deng case and Pi Delta Psi case sentencing.
“These are two of the higher-profile circumstances involving the prosecution of hazing,” said Fierberg. Prosecutors in the Piazza case, he said, “might as well learn” from the outcome of the Deng case.

Fierberg said he expects the Deng case “will help clarify” some things ahead of the Piazza case and could set “a number of precedents.”

Read more on CNN.

National Hazing Prevention Week

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM).

NCSAM received the unanimous support of congress in 2008. Each September, the Clery Center partners with colleges, universities, and other organizations to offer campus safety resources, programming, and ideas.

Although headlines capture the best- and worst- of the field, there’s one thing the Clery Center knows to be true: people don’t function well in fear; individuals make the best decisions when they are informed, offered support, and are confident in their knowledge and skills.

Keeping this in mind, the Clery Center is continuing its practice of dedicating National Campus Safety Awareness month to providing professional development resources and opportunities that can help practitioners move forward on their own campuses.

In accordance with National Hazing Prevention Week, the Clery Center is featuring resources (below) for general audiences (students, parents, etc.) who wish to understand and communicate effectively about hazing, and learn strategies for bystander intervention.

Show the Clery Center what you’re doing for #NCSAM2016 and let’s continue #movingforwardtogether!

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Ooltewah High School Rape Victim

School Violence Law filed suit on behalf of the Ooltewah High School Rape Victim who was sodomized with a pool-cue by teammates.

The lawsuit, as reported by the Times Free Press, was filed in Federal court today, stating that district administrators and school employees knew a culture of abuse had been taking place for years, “and their failure to remediate this rampant abuse resulted in escalation of male student athlete’s harassment, hazing, and assaults of teammates.”

Our client’s (referred to as John Doe in the lawsuit) Title IX rights were violated, as the defendants knew violence and gender-based hazing was taking place and “created a climate in which such misconduct was tolerated, thus encouraging continued and repeated misconduct and proximately causing injury to John.

The Hamilton County Board of Education, former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, the school’s former Athletic Director Allard “Jesse” Nayadley and former boy’s head basketball coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery, were “reckless, grossly negligent and deliberately indifferent to the health, safety and welfare of the [victim].”

Attorneys for the victim, Douglas Fierberg and Monica Beck , along with co-counsel Eddie Schmidt, argue the Ooltewah High School Board failed to “exercise reasonable care to supervise and protect our client, and that Jarvis, Nayadley and Mongtomery’s negligent actions provided legal grounds to remove the board’s immunity.”

“Schools are required by federal and state law to prohibit violent hazing and gender-based violence,” Monica Beck said in a written statement to the Times Free Press. “This young man had a right to participate on the basketball team without sacrificing his physical and emotional safety to hazing traditions long known and tolerated by school officials.”

Fierberg Comments on DA’s Decision to Drop Two High-Profile Campus Rape Cases

Fulton County District Attorney will not bring charges against the assailants involved in campus rape cases at Morehouse College and Georgia Tech.

The three Morehouse basketball players accused of sexually assaulting a Spelman College student in March 2013 were arrested in April 2013 on various assault and rape charges, released on bond, and suspended from Morehouse while Howard’s office investigated. In the second case, Caleb Ackerman, the Georgia Tech student accused of raping an Agnes Scott College Student at his fraternity house in January 2014, was expelled from the university.

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Howard (pictured above) will not bring charges in two high-profile campus rape cases. Kent D. Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Tech case garnered national attention, in part, because Ackerman’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, drew public scrutiny after an email surfaced from one member instructing others how to lure “rapebait” by plying female guests with alcohol.

When the first victim came forward with her allegations of rape after drinking alcohol provided by Phi Kappa Tau members at their fraternity house, another Agnes Scott student followed suit, telling Georgia Tech police Ackerman had raped her in 2012 at an event held at the fraternity house. While the second women did not wish to pursue criminal charges against Ackerman, both women sued the fraternity, saying it “promoted a rampant culture of rape and misogyny.”

Attorney Douglas Fierberg, represented both women in the civil case against the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity that settled about a year ago for an undisclosed sum. Fierberg says Howard’s delay was unwarranted.

“We were able to bring a (civil) case forward, prove what needed to be proven and reach a resolution long before the state decided to move or not,” Fierberg said.

The long delay of Paul Howard’s decision – over two years – prompted complaints that both the accused and the victims were left in limbo.

“No prosecution makes no sense,” said Fierberg.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Fraternity Hazing and Sexual Assault BBC Documentary Features The Fierberg National Law Group

Frat Boys: Inside America’s Fraternities, aired last week to audiences across Europe, garnering rave reviews.

The hour long BBC expose dives deeper into U.S. Fraternity life, narrowly debunking and greatly personifying fraternity stereotypes that exist within the minds of Europeans, and let’s be honest, (non-Greek) Americans alike.

In the midst of toga parties and binge drinking, Douglas Fierberg and Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law cast a sobering light onto the common practices of hazing and sexual assault that run rampant within fraternity culture.  While our client, Terrance Bennett, bravely chronicles his experience as a Tau Kappa Epsilon (“TKE”) pledge, recalling in horrifying detail the hazing practices that led him to be hospitalized for weeks and nearly cost him his life.

“The film highlighted two disturbing statistics: that frat member students were three times more likely to commit sexual assault than non-members, and that violent initiations, known as “hazing”, have been responsible for a staggering 22 deaths in just eight years. More sinister still is that American universities have been complicit in keeping such occurrences out of the courts, and out of the news, because they receive 75 per cent of donations from fraternity members.”The Telegraph

The family of Harrison Kowiak, a 19 year old co-ed who died trying to join a fraternity, also shares their son’s story in the documentary. A football accident, his family was told, initially, took Harrison’s life.  Though, after commissioning their own investigation, Harrison’s family discovered he’d been killed during a hazing ritual in which pledge’s are taken to a desolate field in the black of night and told to capture a sacred rock while being tackled from all sides by fraternity brothers dressed in dark clothing.

Frat Boys: Inside America’s Fraternities will air in the United States Fall 2016.

Click here to read more about the BBC documentary as told by the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian.

‘H A Z E’ Director Consulted with Doug Fierberg During Making Of The Award Winning Film

‘H A Z E’ is a sobering, realistic portrait of what goes on behind fraternity house walls.

Burkman lifts the curtain on fraternity hazing culture designed to instill loyalty while being secretive and emotionally, physically, and morally challenging.

Based on the experiences of Burkman and others, the film draws similarities to Cal Poly freshman Carson Starky’s alcohol related death in 2008 during a fraternity hazing party. 

Burkman also consulted with Doug Fierberg, one of the few attorneys in the United States who specializes in representing hazing victim and their families, to gain a wider perspective on the countless tragedies that have occurred nationwide as a result of fraternity hazing activities.

“By watching the film, the audience can identify with the experience, the emotional ride,” Burkman tells The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, “The byproduct is to educate and help build awareness.”

HAZE has been entered into eight film festivals and won “Best Film” at three of the four events where it has been screened thus far, including DC Independent Film Festival, Soma Film Festival, and Sidewalk Film Festival.

The film is set to be screened at the SLO film festival on March 30th and April 1st.

Click here to learn more about the film and its upcoming screenings.

School Violence Law to Represent Victim in Hazing and Rape Lawsuit

“Top national hazing and sexual assault attorney hired to represent victim in Ooltewah sexual violence lawsuit.” – Times Free Press

1455673250_013116xxOoltewah-07_t1070_hda6ca76c574fc000f349646b87d599fb567c0a4cSchool Violence Law‘s Doug Fierberg and attorney Eddie Schmidt, from Nashville, will be representing the 15-year-old Ooltewah High School freshman and his family who was allegedly raped as apart of a freshman hazing ritual committed by three of his upper-class man teammates during a basketball team trip to Gatlinburg on December 22nd.

Representatives in  Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston’s office said they believe younger players endured abuse from older teammates before the trip. It was a part of the team’s “beat-in” culture, and it was routine for freshman to be hazed and even assaulted, they told to The Times Free Press.

“Fierberg’s practice, School Violence Law, is the only nationwide practice that specializes in representing victims of violence in school-related incidents; and Fierberg has personally served as lead counsel for victims of sexual violence and hazing at schools and universities across the nation.” – Times Free Press

Students seeking to participate in school teams and programs should be protected from hazing and sexual violence. Hazing is not a matter of simple “horseplay,” or validly explained away by notions that “boys will be boys.

Click here to read the entire Times Free Press article.