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Amid Alleged Broomstick Hazing Ritual Scandal, Damascus High Principal Resigns, JV Football Coach & Athletic Director Placed on Leave

When a JV high school football team,  thought to be like a family, allegedly commits the tradition of “broomstick” hazing to new teammates, the story is going to draw ongoing negative media attention…

Yesterday, the principal of Damascus High School in Maryland announced her resignation as a result of the alleged October 2018 “broomstick” hazing and rape of junior varsity football team members at the school.

This announcement follows news that the Damascus High’s JV football coach, Vincent Colbert, who was reported as the first school official to know about the attack (and that the school system waited hours to alert police) was placed on leave last month as part of the ongoing investigation…and later last night, a letter to coaches announced that the athletic director was also put on leave.

This heartbreaking news of hazing and sexual assault in high school is reminiscent of the suit School Violence Law & The Fierberg National Law Group filed on behalf of the Ooltewah High School rape victim who was sodomized with a pool-cue by teammates.

Read our first Blog article regarding the Damascus alleged hazing here.

Follow the ongoing coverage at The Washington Post, WTOP  and CBS NEWS.

 

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After Sit-In, Fraternities No More at Swarthmore

Inside Higher ED | By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf  | May 2, 2019

After students occupied one of the Greek houses on campus for four days, protesting a long history of accusations against them, the two chapters at the college dissolved themselves.

Swarthmore College’s only two fraternities have disbanded, following days-long protests and the leak of internal documents from one of the chapters in which its members boasted about sexual violence and expressed bigoted views.

Student activists stormed one of the fraternity houses, which the college had leased to Phi Psi, on Saturday afternoon. There they remained, both on the main level of the quaint stone building in the center of campus and in tents pitched around the yard. Students accused administrators of ignoring the sexual assaults they said took place in the house.

In the released documents, Phi Psi brothers called the bedroom in the upstairs of the home a “rape attic.”While allegations of rape have hounded Phi Psi for years, the troubles on campus began after a handful of students put together a blog chronicling anonymous students’ stories of being harassed or assaulted by fraternity members. One of the students who started the project said the students had received more than 100 submissions, not just from students at Swarthmore, known for its academic rigor and its Quaker roots, but also from the two other institutions in the Tri-College Consortium, Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College.

After the blog gained some attention, two student-run publications, the Phoenix and Voices, last month published more than 100 pages of what appear to be Phi Psi meeting “minutes” from 2012 to 2016. The logs detail explicit behavior and racial prejudice by fraternity members.

More than 100 students overtook the Phi Psi house on Saturday, and the same day President Valerie Smith informed the campus that she would block fraternity activities until an investigation into the documents had finished. The investigation will be conducted by Christine Wechsler, a lawyer with the Pennsylvania-based firm Elliot Greenleaf. Wechsler was previously part of the Pennsylvania governor’s Office of General Counsel. She will review the documents and determine if any current students may be implicated in policy violations and identify activities that may be ongoing and infringe on federal or state laws or college rules.

After initially disavowing the documents — while also claiming that the trends had not continued with the current crop of members — Phi Psi late Tuesday stated on Facebook it would dissolve and turn the house back over to the college.“We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history, “ the members wrote on Facebook. “Since the start of our membership, we made it our mission to improve the culture and perception of Phi Psi. Unfortunately, the wounds are too deep to repair, and the best course of action for all those involved is to disband the fraternity completely.”Though not the primary target of student ire, the campus’ other fraternity, Delta Upsilon, also announced on Tuesday that it would disband.“After much discussion, the members of Delta Upsilon have unanimously decided that disbanding our fraternity is in the best interest of the Swarthmore community,” the fraternity wrote on Facebook. “We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing.”What will become of the buildings, which for many years have housed the fraternities, remains unclear. Students had demanded that they be converted into spaces that would cater to minority students on campus, or as one activist phrased it, those factions that had been “victimized” by the fraternities.

A spokesman did not respond to request for comment about the future of the buildings and other questions.

Swarthmore is in the midst of studying its now even further shrunken Greek system. Only one sorority remains on campus. The committee conducting that work will still continue it, Smith said in a message to campus Wednesday.“Still, as a community, we have much healing to do,” Smith said in a statement. “We have heard heartbreaking stories from students who feel unwelcome to the point of wanting to transfer out of our community. Those stories have come from across the spectrum of our student body — from student protesters to fraternity members. Stories such as these reflect our failure to realize the values we so often espouse.”Smith stressed that the college would investigate any reports of sexual violence that reached officials. Swarthmore has long struggled with its handling of sexual assault cases. It was subject to a highly controversial and publicized complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal sex antidiscrimination law, in 2013.

And students have protested the college’s response to sexual assault before. Last May, students participated in a sit-in over Title IX issues, and eventually the dean of students who was criticized during the demonstrations resigned.

The fraternities also have come under fire. In 2013, students voted down a referendum measure to ban Greek life from Swarthmore. The same year, Phi Psi was blasted for circulating recruitment materials that featured naked women. The fraternity was suspended in 2016 for alcohol violations and resumed hosting parties last year.

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Students sings songs inside the Phi Psi fraternity on Swarthmore College's campus. The protesters occupied the fraternity house in protest.

As of Thursday, dozens of activists ramped up their protest by moving a sit-in from the Phi Psi fraternity house to outside the school president’s office, a move that preceded the college calling in Swarthmore Borough police, though no one was arrested as of Thursday afternoon. A college spokesperson says president Valerie Smith is willing to meet with the protesters if they vacate her office, but they said they have no plans to leave.

The protesters didn’t come empty-handed. They brought five boxes of signs they say once adorned the walls of the fraternity house they occupied as a symbolic “move-out.” A sampling of what is now in the administration building: a Natural Light banner, a stop sign, a Marlboro cigarettes advertisement, a Dogfish Head craft beer sign, and a Haverford Athletics posting that reads, “No running in the grandstand.”

In a statement, president Valerie Smith condemned the language used in the documents and promised an investigation into whether any current students were involved in the illegal behavior described. She also stated a task force convened to examine Greek life on Swarthmore’s campus would issue recommendations to her by today.

Maya Henry, a junior with Organizing for Survivors, the advocacy group behind the sit-in said the activists want to sit in the president’s office until she makes her decision. They’re concerned the school will push off making a choice until summer when many of the school’s 1,600 students won’t be on campus. Classes end Friday; final exams take place the week of May 9.

“If the college doesn’t take a formal stance against fraternities, then at any time they can decide to come back,” Henry said. “It’s not about these particular fraternity brothers right now. It’s the whole system that repeats itself because this is the nature of fraternities.”

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Ohio University Expels Sigma Pi Chapter after Collin Wiant’s Death

45 Mill Street -- student diedOhio University announced Tuesday that the local chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity is now permanently “expelled” from campus, for multiple policy violations regarding hazing and alcohol use. This comes after the university’s investigation into Sigma Pi after the death of Collin Wiant.

The fraternity was found, through a preponderance of evidence standard, to have violated 10 different statutes in the Student Code of Conduct that included: Hazing, Alcohol Violations, Controlled Substance/Drug Violation, and Harmful Behavior.

The fraternity chapter appealed the results of the hearing to a university appeal hearing board, as well as to the VP for Student Affairs…but the appeal was denied. #stophazing

Read the redacted Sigma Pi outcome letter Here.

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North Carolina Struggles with Gun Violence on College & University Campuses

Image result for unc shootingTwo people were killed and four others were injured yesterday when Trystan Andrew Terrell, a 22-year-old former history major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (“UNCC”), opened fire in a classroom building on the campus.

Sadly, this type of violence is not new to NC campuses. Since 2014, there have been multiple other shootings on or near NC colleges and universities – including the shooting of Winston-Salem State University student, Najee Baker, who was shot and killed at a social event at Wake Forest University.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our deepest condolences to the students and families affected by this tragic event.

Read More About North Carolina Gun Violence on Campuses at USA Today, CNN and More.

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Swarthmore College Students – Angry Over Reports of Sexual Violence and Leaked Fraternity Documents – Stage Sit-In

For 3 days, students at Swarthmore College have occupied the quarters of one of the college’s two fraternities.

The demonstration transpired after “unredacted materials” were anonymously leaked to student journalists that contained derogatory comments about women, minorities and the LGBTQ community, and jokes about sexual assault allegedly written by former members of one of Swarthmore’s fraternities – Phi Psi – whose house the students seized.

The documents labeled as “minutes” are allegedly “secondhand recaps of Phi Psi members’ activities.”

#TitleIX #itsonus #SAAM #IAsk #EROC #nomore

Read the Full Story Here.

 

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Three Virginia State University (VSU) Fraternity Members Charged in Alleged Hazing Incident

Image result for kappa alpha psi greek letters

Petersburg, Virginia Police have charged 3 Virginia State University (VSU) Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ ) fraternity members in an alleged hazing incident over the weekend on Pocahontas Island. University officials said 8 other students participated in the activity.

Police did not provide the offenses with which the 3 men were charged, but online court records show that one Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member was charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor hazing and was to appear in court Monday morning. No charges were listed for the other two students.

University officials said the 3 students “are being charged with hazing-related criminal offenses,” but did not specify the charges.

The 8 other students who participated in the hazing activity have been referred to the VSU Office of Judicial Affairs for disciplinary action “as a result of student conduct violations.”

VSU officials said the university’s anti-hazing policy “clearly states that every form of hazing to include conspiracy to haze is prohibited.” The university has had several publicized hazing incidents in the past decade.

Read The News & Advance Full Article Here.

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Title IX Precedent Set in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Kansas State University’s petitions to rehear its motion to dismiss our lawsuit that claims KSU officials failed to investigate our clients’ sexual assaults.

School Violence Law and our clients have now created binding 10th Circuit precedent regarding #TitleIX.

#SAAM #IAsk ✊ 

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The Kids Are Still Dying – How Do We Prosecute Hazing?

Image result for greek lifeThis school year has included a number of hazing injuries and deaths across the country – in both the K12 schools and on college campuses.

After the recent alleged hazing death of University of Buffalo (UB) student & Sigma Pi pledge, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan,  School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group attorney, Douglas Fierberg, was interviewed for The Buffalo News article regarding his expertise in hazing tragedies.

Unlike the old days when a “Frat Mom” ran the show, most fraternity houses operating today lack adult supervision and instead rely on a management structure that leaves 20- and 21-year-olds in charge, Fierberg said.

“Time and time again, that management structure has failed,” he said. “It’s deadly.”

– Read The Buffalo News Full Article Here.

 

 

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Ohio Student Died at Sigma Pi Fraternity 6 Months Before UB Freshman

When are fraternities going to take the lead and implement steps required to make their operations and chapters safe?

Sadly, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan’s death is not the first incident where a student has died or faced harm at a Sigma Pi fraternity in the past six months.

This past November, freshman Collin Wiant died at Ohio University’s Sigma Pi house after ingesting nitrous oxide – a couple of weeks prior to Wiant’s death, the Sigma Pi chapter at the University of Colorado, Boulder ceased operations after young women claimed they were drugged at the house.

Read the Full Article Here.

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