Blog

FORMER MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL DOUG GANSLER JOINS LEGAL EXPERTS TO DISCUSS KAVANAUGH HEARINGS AT COLLEGE PARK

College Park, MD (Sept. 27, 2018) – Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler joins former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and SurvJustice Founder Laura L. Dunn to discuss the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and his confirmation hearings this Friday, September 28, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland – College Park in the Special Events Room, McKeldin 6137.

Doug Gansler, who previously served as Attorney General of Maryland and the State’s Attorney for Montgomery County, where some of the alleged conduct took place, recently shared his views on the viability of a criminal investigation in Maryland in the BALTIMORE SUN. Gansler has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and was a candidate for Governor of Maryland.

Thiru Vignarajah served as Deputy Attorney General of Maryland and as a federal and city prosecutor in Baltimore. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and was president of the Harvard Law Review. Last week, the WASHINGTON POST published Vignarajah’s op-ed contending that a criminal investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations was warranted.

Laura L. Dunn, an attorney at The Fierberg National Law Group and 2018 TED Fellow, adds a survivor perspective to the issue. “The criminal system has historically failed survivors, which has led to the #MeToo movement and created challenging situations like this, where accusations arise that require serious consideration before making critical appointments to positions of leadership,” said Dunn. Dunn is an outspoken survivor and victim rights attorney who won the 2017 U.S. Department of Justice’s Special Courage Award from the Office for Victims of Crime for her work founding the only national nonprofit representing victims of sexual violence in campus proceedings, SurvJustice.

Hosted by the University of Maryland’s MLAW program, this open discussion with give students and community members the opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, legal experts about allegations of sexual assault against a Supreme Court nominee. The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are likely to have profound implications on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court for years to come. The panel discussion will cover questions of great public interest, which the panelists’ backgrounds especially prepare them to address.

Hazing seen as possible factor in UC Riverside student’s death

Though the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity website claims a strict no-hazing stance, the family of Tyler Hilliard claims hazing was a big part of his pledging experience.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) –An investigation is underway after a student at the University of California Riverside died in what may be a fraternity hazing incident.

Tyler Hilliard, 20, would have been a junior this year, majoring in engineering.

Police are waiting for the results of an autopsy, but did confirm they are investigating the possibility of hazing in his death.

His family says Tyler was going for a degree in physics at UCR and wanted to be an engineer.

They say he’d recently pledged at the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and that activities began in July.

According to the fraternity’s website, Alpha Phi Alpha has a strict no-hazing stance, and that anyone participating in hazing is a criminal.

But his family says hazing was a big part of the activities Hilliard was involved with. He was allegedly forced to eat items like an entire onion covered in hot sauce, forced to drink large amounts of water; and even paddled with a piece of cactus.

Click here to access the full article.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Tyler Hilliard.

CNN Special Report: A Deadly Haze: Inside the Fraternity Crisis

Doug Fierberg and our client will be featured in the report. Tune in Saturday August 25th at 8 pm ET.

When gruesome details of the death of 19-year-old Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza became public, college Greek life and the country’s fraternity system came under intense scrutiny.  A wide-ranging investigation examining hours of video, text messages between fraternity brothers and eyewitness testimony led to one of the largest criminal indictments against a fraternity and its members in history.  Now, more than two dozen young men face criminal charges.  In A Deadly Haze:  Inside the Fraternity Crisis airing Saturday, August 25 at 8pm ET on CNN, Alisyn Camerota takes an in-depth look at what happened to Piazza inside the walls of the Beta Theta Pi house and the alleged coverup that ensued.

Camerota speaks to Kordel Davis, a brother who witnessed the events of that night.  She also speaks with James Vivenzio, a former fraternity brother turned whistleblower, who describes the pledging process and what it’s like to be hazed.

With insight from Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and CNN Correspondent Sara Ganim, A Deadly Haze delves into a fraternity system that has been called out for “rampant and pervasive” hazing in its Greek community. But the fraternity hazing crisis stretches far beyond Penn State.

Since 2005, there have been more than 77 fraternity-related deaths across the country. Some studies find that Greek Life comes with a 50% higher rate of sexual assault. Fraternity and sorority members also report excessive drinking four times higher than the average student. Despite those risks, young men still flock to fraternities. By all accounts, Greek life is as popular as ever – with more than 400,000 active fraternity members which is a 50% increase over the past decade.

As millions of young people arrive on college campuses,  do they and their parents know enough about the perils of hazing at universities across the country?  Even with Timothy Piazza’s tragic, high profile case, dangerous fraternity behavior continues on campuses across the country leading to at least three more deaths in 2017.

A Deadly Haze will also stream live for subscribers on Saturday, August 25 via CNNgo (at CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android. The documentary will also be available the day after the broadcast premiere on demand via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps.

###

About CNN Special Report
CNN Special Report is the award-winning, in-house documentary unit focusing on in-depth and investigative reporting of major issues and events and the powerful human-interest stories that reflect our times.

Family Alleges University and Frat Ignored Known Hazing Traditions that Resulted in Son’s Death

Baton Rouge, La., August 16, 2018 – Today, the parents of Maxwell (Max) Gruver, the Louisiana State University (LSU) freshman who tragically died from alcohol poisoning as a result of hazing in 2017, filed a federal lawsuit against LSU, the local and national chapters of Phi Delta Theta, the housing corporation that owns Phi Delta Theta’s fraternity house at LSU, and members of the fraternity. Max’s parents allege the hazing ritual that caused his death would never have taken place if LSU or Phi Delta Theta had responded appropriately to numerous complaints of hazing at Phi Delta Theta’s chapter at LSU in the years before Max’s death.

The Gruver family alleges in their lawsuit that LSU’s and Phi Delta Theta’s failure to end the tradition of hazing at the chapter was driven by a broken model of self-governance and outdated gender stereotypes about young men engaging in masculine rites of passage — in direct violation of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. According to the family’s Complaint, because of LSU’s policy and practice of treating the hazing of male students less seriously than the hazing of female students, males participating in Greek Life face serious and substantial risks of injury and death, while female students pledging sororities do not. LSU’s policy and practice meant that a sorority accused of hazing its pledges by making them sing songs and do sit-ups and putting whipped cream, syrup and eggs in their hair was given “Total Probation” by LSU – the most severe sanction LSU can impose, short of rescinding its recognition of the sorority – while Phi Delt’s chapter, which admitted to hazing in 2016, was only placed on interim suspension for a month.

“We refuse to accept that the events that caused Max’s death can be explained away as ‘boys being boys,’” said Mr. and Mrs. Gruver in a statement. “That notion is deeply offensive and wrong-headed. LSU and Phi Delt knew dangerous hazing was taking place at Phi Delt’s LSU chapter for years, yet they continued to allow the chapter and its members to investigate and police themselves. This inaction allowed dangerous hazing traditions at the chapter to persist. We’ve lost Max as result of those hazing traditions, and his loss has created a devastating impact that reaches not just us, but Max’s siblings, family, friends, and all who knew him. Until institutions and national fraternities begin treating the hazing of young men as the serious offense that is, with real consequences for members and local chapters that engage in it, hazing and other dangerous misconduct at fraternities will continue. And each year, more families like ours will have to suffer through these horrific tragedies.”

“Every year, and for decades, young men have died or suffered traumatic injuries pledging fraternities that are dangerous, yet glowingly promoted with false and misleading information by the partnerships between fraternities and universities,” said Douglas Fierberg, legal counsel for the Gruver family. “A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions, end the killing of young men, and stop lying to students and families who have the right to know information that may save lives.”

To learn more about this case and the Gruver’s fight to stop hazing, please visit The Max Gruver Foundation.

Click here to access the full complaint against LSU.

National Law Firm Challenges Oregon State University Under Title IX for Imposing Order Against Rape Victim

Washington, D.C.– On May 14, 2017, “Jane Doe” reported to the Corvallis Police that Oregon State University (“OSU”) football player Jordan Alexander Pace had raped her in his dorm room.  Graphic physical evidence was collected during a rape kit conducted at the local hospital that same night, and four felony sex offense charges are currently pending against Pace.

Nevertheless, upon notice of the campus rape, OSU discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Doe by immediately imposing a no contact order against her, the victim.  This order prohibits her from speaking to law enforcement and limits her access to educational opportunities and benefits on campus.  In the aftermath of the campus rape, Pace’s teammates intimidated Ms. Doe on campus, and given the ongoing threat posed by Pace’s continued presence on campus, Ms. Doe felt forced to withdraw from OSU. Not only has OSU kept Pace on campus as a student and student-athlete – the very place Ms. Doe was forced to withdraw from – it recently hired him as a campus employee, though he is in the midst of being prosecuted for four felony sex offense charges against a fellow student.

Today, Ms. Doe filed suit in the U.S. District for the District of Oregon seeking a declaratory judgment against OSU to declare the practice of issuing no contact orders, automatically and without due process, request or necessity, against victims of alleged crimes, as unlawful, discriminatory, and retaliatory in violation of Title IX, federal and state due process rights, federal and state free speech rights, and her rights as a crime victim under Oregon’s State Constitution.

TED Fellow and leading victim rights attorney for campus sexual assault, Laura L. Dunn, through the Fierberg National Law Group, PLLC, and in partnership with local counsel Andrew Lauersdorf and Janis Puracal of Maloney Lauersdorf & Reiner P.C., filed this legal challenge on Ms. Doe’s behalf. “Schools are unjustifiably imposing orders against victims of sexual misconduct to limit their access to education counter to the very protections Title IX guarantees them,” said Dunn, “This is due to the Trump administration’s action to rescind critical Title IX guidance and replace it with a discriminatory interim policy that encourages schools to favor those accused over Title IX’s requirement to protect the victim.”  In January 2017, Dunn led SurvJustice’s legal challenge against Secretary DeVos’ changes to Title IX guidance. That lawsuit currently faces a motion to dismiss from the government in the U.S. District for the Northern District of California.

 Click here to access the case filings.

Michigan State Will Pay $500 Million to Abuse Victims. What Comes Next?

Michigan State University reached a $500 Million settlement for the survivors of sexual abuse by MSU physician, Larry Nassar, but what about justice for other survivors of sexual abuse and violence?

Structures are in place at universities across the country to protect students from sexual abuse and violence. Unfortunately similar structures do not exist in the United States Olympic Committee to protect young athletes from abuse. Veteran collegiate and Olympic athlete, CEO of Champion Women, and TFNLG affiliate, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, writes on the subject for the New York Times:
May 18, 2018
On Wednesday, Michigan State University announced it had settled with 332 victims of sexual abuse by Lawrence G. Nassar, a physician who worked with the school’s gymnastics program. The settlement will pay $425 million to 332 victims, or about $1.28 million each; it will set aside an additional $75 million in a trust for any future claims of sexual abuse against Mr. Nassar.

Half a billion dollars is a landmark settlement, one that couldn’t have been achieved without the courage and vulnerability of Mr. Nassar’s hundreds of victims. And it didn’t help that the university chose a strategy of maligning the victims, accusing one of them, Rachael Denhollander, of being in it “for the money.”

Until recently, though, this sort of strategy often worked. The difference this time is both the sheer number of victims and the intersection of the Nassar case and the #MeToo movement. Understanding the Michigan State settlement within that context is critical, because it points to where things need to go next: The #MeToo/#TimesUp movement is not limited to getting victims much-needed compensation and ousting powerful and abusive men from their professional careers; it means changing the systems and cultures that breed sexual harassment and abuse in the first place.

I know the culture of collegiate and Olympic sports particularly well. I am an eight-year veteran of the United States national swimming team, a two-time Olympian and a three-time gold medalist. My 1984 Olympic coach, Mitch Ivey, was barred from the sport for sexually abusing my teammate. He never hid his sexual contacts with multiple underage swimmers; he was open about their “relationship” — common parlance in the swimming community that normalized child molestation. Despite his well-known abuse, it took 30 years before USA Swimming barred him.

However badly we think Michigan State behaved, at least the university recognized that it has a duty to protect its students from sexual abuse and violence, and it eventually acted. Structures were in place, even if it took the school too long to use them.

Not true for the United States Olympic Committee. It has known that sexual abuse is a significant risk of harm to America’s athletes, but the committee made the conscious decision to let the abuse happen without helping victims. Like Mitch Ivey, hundreds of other coaches were known risks to children.

Instead, the committee has adopted a “not my problem” approach, declaring that it is up to the individual sports to root out abuse. By taking that strategy, the committee avoids having to educate families and athletes about the risks of sexual abuse, having to train children on how to recognize appropriate boundaries and having to train its staff on how to conduct an investigation or a hearing that the parties would consider fair. Moreover, no matter how poorly it has protected athletes, the committee needn’t fear civil liability unless it employs the coach directly — a tiny number. The committee’s strategy has saved them enormous sums.

This is beginning to change. In February, in response to powerful testimony in the Nassar case by athletes like Aly Raisman, Congress passed the SafeSport Act, which imposes an obligation on the Olympic Committee and the 47 sports it oversees to protect athletes from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It prohibits coaches and those in power over athletes from being alone together, except in an emergency. It requires everyone inside the Olympic movement to report instances of abuse. And it authorized the creation of the Center for SafeSport, an independent entity that will provide expertise to sexual abuse complaints.

Max Gruver Act

The anti-hazing legislation, ‘Max Gruver Act’, would create harsher criminal penalties in Louisiana, and is nearing final passage at the State Capitol, following last fall’s death of an LSU freshman fraternity pledge.

Elizabeth Crisp and Natalie Anderson of The Advocate report:

Without discussion and by unanimous vote, the Senate on Monday signed off on House Bill 78, which would be known as the Max Gruver Act.

The bill must go back to the House for approval of technical changes, which is normally a quick procedural move. It would then head to Gov. John l Edwards, a Democrat who is expected to sign the measure into law.

Gruver, 18, was one month into his first year of college at LSU when police said he attended a fraternity initiation event and was forced to chug 190-proof liquor. His blood alcohol level was 0.495 when he died – more than six times the legal limit to drive.

Four former LSU students have been indicted in Gruver’s death and have pleaded not guilty – one on a charge of negligent homicide and three others with hazing.

Phi Delta Theta fraternity has been banned from LSU’s campus until at least 2033, following an investigation into the events that led to Gruver’s death.

 A hazing conviction under current law carries a maximum $100 fine and 30 days behind bars.

Under Landry’s proposal, people who take part in hazing activities that result in death when the victim’s blood alcohol level is at least .30 would face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Hazing that doesn’t lead to death would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 and six months in prison.

Organizations – fraternities, sororities, associations, social clubs, athletic teams and similar groups on college or high school campuses – that knowingly allow hazing could also face fines of up to $10,000.

Landry has said her bill was prompted by Gruver’s death, which along with similar cases has helped ignite a national debate over how to prevent future hazing-linked tragedies and whether existing anti-hazing laws are stringent enough.

The proposed Max Gruver Act is one of multiple measures in this legislative session to intended to combat hazing. Gruver’s parents, RaeAnn and Stephen, have traveled from their home in Roswell, Georgia, to the Louisiana Capitol multiple times this session to support HB78, testifying in emotional hearings about the loss of their son.

“Our house used to be filled with laughing friends and now it’s filled with sadness,” RaeAnn Gruver said, choking back tears, during a House committee hearing on the bill last month. “This will save lives, it would’ve saved Max’s, and it definitely could save someone else’s life in the future.”

Click here to access the full piece from The Advocate, and click here for more posts on fraternity hazing.

 

 

California Polytechnic State University Greek Life Suspended

A California university has suspended all fraternities and sororities following racially insensitive incidents and become the latest school to crack down on campus fraternal organizations.

of The Washington Post reports:

The trouble at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo began April 8, when photos of a Lambda Chi Alpha party surfaced that showed white attendees — one in blackface — flashing gang signs. The university’s administration suspended the fraternity for at least a year.

Another party photo surfaced April 17, prompting administrators at the majority-white campus to broaden the suspension to include all fraternities and sororities. The image showed white members of Sigma Nu sporting saggy pants, tank tops and bandannas while drinking Coronas. “When you get he [sic] holmes to take a photo of la familia,” read the caption.

“Words cannot begin to explain how gut-wrenching it has been for me to witness the hurt so many have felt and continue to feel regarding the Lambda Chi Alpha incident,” said Jeffrey Armstrong, president of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in a lengthy statement issued last week. “I know the discomfort I sit with cannot compare with what so many of our students, faculty and staff of color feel.”

Last week, tensions ratcheted up on the campus. Professor Neal MacDougall discovered multiple racist messages over a few hours. A racial epithet was scrawled in a men’s bathroom. Fliers were posted on the professor’s bulletin board stating that African people have lower IQs and a higher propensity for rape and murder. And a poster attached to the professor’s office door declaring his willingness to help undocumented students was defiled, apparently with a sharp object.

“If you’re physically posting something — even horrible stuff — there’s kind of a passive element to it,” MacDougall, an instructor in Cal Poly’s agribusiness department, said. “But when someone kind of saw that sign and decided to take out whatever sharp object that they had and slashed that sign, that was a bit disturbing. I see that as a fundamentally violent act, and that made me uncomfortable.”

In the coming days, the administration is expected to delineate terms of the fraternity and sorority suspension, which the school’s president described as “indefinite,” and the conditions by which those organizations can return to active status, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.

“Various Greek organizations have been the sources of numerous problems over the past few years,” Lazier said last week in a statement. “These problems have included racially charged and insensitive events, sexual assaults, hazing and alcohol-related deaths, and violations of the university’s code of conduct regarding hosting social events.”

“This is not an attempt to get rid of Greek life at Cal Poly,” he said. “Rather, it is a pause and a reset.”

Miguel Preciado, a junior majoring in agriculture business, said he could not imagine joining Lambda Chi Alpha, the fraternity linked to photos showing members flashing gang signs at a party.

“As a Mexican person, I completely would not feel comfortable at all trying to rush for the Lambdas or any fraternity that was ag-related because of how white it is,” he said.

Nikki Petkopoulos, a graduating senior who is Asian, said she has felt out of place at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Petkopoulos, who came from a predominantly Asian school in a San Francisco suburb, said she was taken aback by interactions with white students at the university.

Petkopoulos said she was assigned to live in the engineering dorm, even though she was a journalism major.

“Everybody was white, I was the only person who wasn’t,” she said. “And that’s fine.”

It became uncomfortable, she said, when she and other women would chat with men in the dorm, and the men would discuss women they find attractive.

“It started off kind of benign, like a little racist, but like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m only into blonde girls with blue eyes,’ ” she said. “But then they kind of have to take it a step further.”

One man made a habit of telling her he didn’t find Asian women attractive.

“Even a guy I dated would say some pretty racist stuff . . . like only Beyoncé could be an attractive black girl,” she said.

Petkopoulos said she believes the student wearing blackface should be expelled.

“There has been a new reckoning on campus,” she said. “And I think people making such a fuss in opposition to the movement are the type of people who don’t realize how much they think the world revolves around them.”

Click here to access the full article and here for more on fraternity misconduct.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but action should be taken year round to reduce and eliminate child abuse.

This month and throughout the year The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law encourage all individuals and organizations to play a role in creating a better environment for children and families. Together we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by ensuring parents, teachers, and caregivers have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for and protect children.

The United States has one of the worst child abuse records among industrialized nations- losing on average between four and seven children every day to abuse and neglect. One in 10 children will be sexually abused before the reach the age 18. Child sexual abuse survivors are three to four times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and twice as likely to drop out of school, have a teenage pregnancy, and suffer from serious and long-term mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, among other physical and emotional problems.

Approximately 80 percent of these tragedies happen in isolated, one-on-one situations. But we can eliminate or reduce that dramatically by implementing new ways to safeguard our children. Youth organizations should have a clear code of conduct for staff and volunteers that is shared with parents and children, and background checks, including speaking directly to references, are imperative. Teachers, coaches and clergy should have open-door meetings with children.

As adults, we are all responsible for ensuring the safety of our children. We can do our best to arm children with child  abuse prevention training, but ultimately this endeavor lies directly with us. We can learn to become more vigilant at prevention and speak to our children honestly and openly about our bodies, sex and boundaries.

Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect

 

A Deadly Haze

Doug Fierberg and And our Clients will appear in A Deadly Haze:  Inside the Fraternity Crisis, Airing on CNN Saturday, April 14th at 8pm ET

When gruesome details of the death of 19-year-old Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza became public, college Greek life and the country’s fraternity system came under intense scrutiny.  A wide-ranging investigation examining hours of video, text messages between fraternity brothers and eyewitness testimony led to one of the largest criminal indictments against a fraternity and its members in history.  Now, more than two dozen young men face criminal charges.  In Deadly Haze:  Inside the Fraternity Crisis airing Saturday, April 14th at 8pm ET on CNN, Alisyn Camerota takes an in-depth look at what happened to Piazza inside the walls of the Beta Theta Pi house and the alleged coverup that ensued.

Camerota speaks to Kordel Davis, a brother who witnessed the events of that night.  She also speaks with James Vivenzio, a former fraternity brother turned whistleblower, who describes the pledging process and what it’s like to be hazed.

With insight from Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and CNN Correspondent Sara Ganim, Deadly Haze delves into a fraternity system that has been called out for “rampant and pervasive” hazing in its Greek community. But the fraternity hazing crisis stretches far beyond Penn State.

Since 2005, there have been more than 77 fraternity-related deaths across the country. Some studies find that Greek Life comes with a 50% higher rate of sexual assault. Fraternity and sorority members also report excessive drinking four times higher than the average student. Despite those risks, young men still flock to fraternities. By all accounts, Greek life is as popular as ever – with more than 400,000 active fraternity members which is a 50% increase over the past decade.

As millions of young people make the monumental decision of which college they should attend, do they and their parents know enough about the perils of hazing at universities across the country?  Even with Timothy Piazza’s tragic, high profile case, dangerous fraternity behavior continues on campuses across the country leading to at least three more deaths in 2017.

Deadly Haze will also stream live for subscribers on Saturday, April 14th via CNNgo (at CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android. The documentary will also be available the day after the broadcast premiere on demand via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps.

About CNN Special Report CNN Special Report is the award-winning, in-house documentary unit focusing on in-depth and investigative reporting of major issues and events and the powerful human-interest stories that reflect our times.