Blog : Injury & Death

“Experts call such victim-blaming ‘tortured rationalizations.'”

See the source imageA California father believes his 18-year-old son’s alcohol-related death was the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. The Orange County coroner’s office said Monday, Noah Domingo died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Noah’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit, reports CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas. The UC Irvine freshman was found unresponsive after a party in January. His father said Noah was taking part in a dangerous and longstanding fraternity ritual. His death has already prompted Sigma Alpha Epsilon to close its chapter at UC Irvine indefinitely.

In a statement to CBS News, Dale Domingo said, “We have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing.” He contends the fraternity was conducting its “big brother night” ritual where “Noah was compelled to guzzle a so-called ‘family drink’ to become part of his big brother’s family.” He said, “It is why fraternities openly refer to this type of ritual as being one of the ‘deadly nights.'”

Authorities said Domingo died at about 3:30 in the morning, but the initial 911 call was some six hours later. The person who called 911 told the operator “he just drank, he just drank too much.”

Disputing the account in the 911 call, Noah’s father said his son did not just drink too much. He said experts call such victim-blaming “tortured rationalizations.”

Authorities are still investigating the circumstances leading to Domingo’s death and have not confirmed that hazing played a role.
In a statement, the university offered its “deepest sympathies to the Domingo family” and said “his death brings an urgent focus on alcohol and substance abuse.”

The focus on fraternity hazing has intensified in recent years with the deaths of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza and Florida State University fraternity member Andrew Coffey.

Just like other families impacted by college drinking deaths, Noah’s father said he will honor his son by doing everything he can to end hazing by fraternities and their members.

CBS News reached out to Sigma Alpha Epsilon regarding the confirmation of Domingo’s cause of death, but have not heard back.

©  2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. See the Full Report Here.

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Where Does School Safety Stand One Year After The Parkland Shooting?

The New York Times | Margaret Kramer and Jennifer Harlan | 

The Parkland students became a force for gun control legislation and boosted the youth vote. Here’s how they changed America’s response to mass shootings.

On Feb. 14, 2018, a former student slaughtered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The next day, David Hogg, a student who survived the attack, expressed his frustration at the pattern of political inaction that seems to follow mass shootings in the United States. He was not surprised that there had been another school shooting, he said, and that fact alone “says so much about the current state that our country is in, and how much has to be done.”

“We need to do something,” he said. In the course of the next year, students would change the way the nation handles mass shootings, spurring new gun legislation and school safety measures, and holding to account the adults they felt had failed them.

Here’s a look at where they made those changes happen, and where they were disappointed.

With Parkland, it was the students who set the agenda. Their openness about their pain made them formidable leaders of the movement for gun control, and their displays of strength and utter grief struck a chord with a nation numbed by repeated acts of violence.

In the weeks after the shooting, busloads of Stoneman Douglas students took their case to the Florida capital and to Washington. With a rallying cry of “Never Again,” they gathered support from other young people and activists, and their March For Our Lives campaign spurred huge rallies and hundreds of protests, including a nationwide school walkout.

The movement brought youth activism to a new age — finding global power in social media and pushing public officials to acknowledge their accountability.

Stoneman Douglas students and parents were outraged by what they viewed as gross incompetence on the part of school and law enforcement officials. Video showed that a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school did not enter the building as the attack unfolded. Seven other deputies remained outside as gunshots rang out, a state commission found.

And in January, Florida’s new Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, suspended Sheriff Scott Israel for his “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.”

In the case of Mr. Cruz, the warning signs were many. There were the boasts about killing animals, the expulsion, the stalking of a female classmate, the repeated calls from his mother to the police. School counselors and a sheriff’s deputy decided at one point that he should be forcibly committed for psychiatric evaluation, only to apparently change their minds the next day. Multiple tips to the F.B.I. were left uninvestigated — one woman told the bureau’s tip line she was worried about Mr. Cruz going “into a school and just shooting the place up.” At that time, there was no law in Florida that would have prevented Mr. Cruz from buying a gun or would have allowed the police to take away his weapon. A gun control bill the state passed in March now allows law enforcement — with judicial approval — to bar a person deemed dangerous from owning guns for up to a year.

State legislatures, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled, passed 76 gun control laws in the past year — from bans on bump stocks and caps on magazine sizes to new minimum-age requirements and expanded background checks. Among the victories for gun control advocates was an omnibus bill in Florida that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm in the state to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days. In all, more than half the states passed at least one gun control measure in 2018, with Washington and New York joining the trend in 2019.

At the same time, there were significantly fewer new state laws expanding gun rights in 2018 than the year before, according to an end-of-year report by the national advocacy group Giffords. Data provided by the N.R.A. also indicated that the number of enacted gun control measures outnumbered pro-gun measures for the first time in at least six years.

Read the Entire New York Times Article Here 

The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law applaud these students. Our lawyers negotiated the historic settlements for the wrongful deaths and injured survivors of the Virginia Tech Massacre, which valued in excess of $11 Million.  The settlements established a foundation in their honor that continues to advocate for safe schools and gun control, which we continue to represent.

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Sigma Alpha Epsilon: Years of Misconduct and Hazing

Image result for SAE frat logo

Alcohol-related deaths at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapters across the country have been going on for years. 

Incidents include, but unfortunately, not limited to:

  • The 2006 alleged alcohol-related hazing death of University of Texas freshman & SAE pledge, Tyler Cross, who fell to his death from the fifth-floor balcony of his off-campus dorm. Allegedly, in the days before Tyler’s death, he was subjected to hazing rituals that included beatings, forced consumption of alcohol and sleep deprivation.
  • The 2008 alcohol poisoning death of Cal Poly freshman and pledge, Carson Starkey, who died only hours after attending a “brown bag” event. Allegedly, when Carson passed out, fraternity members drove him to the hospital but turned around for fear of being arrested. Brothers then placed Carson on a mattress at the house, where he died. Police officials said that the death was the result of the crime of hazing while Carson was being initiated into Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent The Starkeys not only in their civil lawsuit but also in their pursuit to bring attention to the dangers of hazing and prevent other families from suffering as they did.
  • The 2009 alcohol poisoning death of University of Kansas freshman Jason Wren, who was found dead in his bed at the SAE house after a night of alleged binge drinking. Jason had only been with the fraternity for one week.
  • The 2011 hazing death of Cornell University student, George Desdunes, who was allegedly kidnapped and bound at his wrists and ankles with zip ties by SAE pledges as part of a longstanding fraternity ritual and compelled to consume alcohol until he lost consciousness. Instead of medical treatment,  George was taken to the fraternity house and placed on a couch where he was left to die. He was found later that morning by Cornell personnel, with zip ties still around his wrists and ankles. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent George’s Mother, Marie Lourdes André, both in her civil lawsuit and in her efforts to obtain justice for George’s death by changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing. 

This conduct should not, and will not, be tolerated.

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group seek justice for victims of fraternity hazing and wrongful death by holding fraternities, fraternity chapters, fraternity members and schools accountable for their actions.  Our work continues, on behalf and in honor of the first family we represented (circa 1993) and for every one thereafter. We know this to be true.

 

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Cal Poly Sigma Pi Chapter Suspended Over Hazing Accusations

Last year’s tragic death of Collin Wiant, a pledge at the Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, should have opened up Sigma Pi’s eyes to change its policies and practices……yet their ongoing incidents and misconduct continue across the U.S. 

The Sigma Pi fraternity has been suspended until June 15, 2019 and placed on social probation until Spring 2020 for violation of health and safety code, violation of alcohol use, violations of law, and violation of hazing and conspiracy to haze. The suspension is effective immediately, as of Monday, Jan. 14, according to Cal Poly Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Sigma Pi was investigated after the university received reports that the fraternity was involved in hazing recruits in Fall 2018. The hazing included humiliation of pledges, causing mental and emotional distress, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. It is unknown how many reports of hazing the university received.

The fraternity was also found in violation of providing alcohol to pledges and minors during the recruitment and pledging process.

The university asked the Sigma Pi national chapter to review the chapter’s membership and the chapter’s executive board is required to complete an educational training, according to Lazier.

The fraternity received a notice of suspension Monday and was banned from Winter 2019 rush events, starting today.

The chapter has not commented on the sanctions at this time. Mustang News has reached out to the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council and Sigma Pi national headquarters, but have not received a response from either.

Sigma Pi is known on campus for their annual Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Week and for notable alumni, such as iCracked Founder AJ Forsythe. The chapter has 91 brothers as of 2018, according to their website.

This is the second fraternity found in violation of hazing this school year.

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UC Irvine Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapter Suspended After Member Dies

Noah Domingo

After ONLY 1 WEEK of being back to classes, UC Irvine Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is Suspended as Police Investigate Death of 18-Year-Old Student.

Freshman Noah Domingo was found Saturday near the University of California, Irvine in a home off-campus. Irvine police received a call around 9:40 a.m. that Domingo was unresponsive and found him dead in a bed at the home, said Kim Mohr, a police spokeswoman.

Orange County coroner’s officials said Domingo died six hours earlier. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the same fraternity Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey, who died from acute alcohol poisoning in a hazing ritual, was pledging in December 2008.

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

 

 

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University of Iowa Fraternities Booted from Campus for Alcohol & Hazing Violations

Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Published 6:40 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2018 | Updated 8:22 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2018

Four fraternity chapters have been removed from the University of Iowa, following a two-month investigation spurred by multiple alcohol-related incidents, including one death. School officials announced the chapter removals during a news conference Thursday night.

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the UI chapter of Kappa Sigma International Fraternity were banned from operating as student organizations at the University of Iowa.

The Kappa Sigma chapter, called the Beta-Rho chapter, was also removed from the national organization following allegations of hazing. University officials declined to elaborate on the hazing events that provoked the removal of Beta-Rho Thursday.

The news is the latest in a crackdown on drinking violations at University of Iowa fraternities. Fraternities have been banned from holding events with alcohol after a University of Iowa student died at an out-of-state fraternity formal in 2017.

Twelve chapters were temporarily suspended in September and October for violating that moratorium.

In issuing the suspensions, university officials cited complaints to police and complaints about tailgating events hosted by the fraternities during football seasons. According to notices sent to students,police reported concerns of overdoses and alcohol poisoning at the various tailgates. At some tailgates, Iowa City police reported criminalmischief, loud parties, beer cans being thrown and unconscious individuals.

Following the two-month investigation into the allegations, two fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, were cleared. According to officials, there was not a “preponderance of evidence to find the chapter responsible for allegations, including tailgates.”

Six other fraternities — Acacia, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Pi and Phi Delta Theta — were placed on probation following the initial investigation results. Phi Delta Theta was placed on deferred suspension.

The fraternities have until Jan. 11 to appeal the investigation findings.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, said the timing of the news was not ideal, but university officials wanted to give students living in the fraternity residences time to make other living arrangements if needed.

Fraternity houses are not operated by the university.

In the midst of the investigation and subsequent punishment, students and faculty have been working on a “Strategic Plan” to improve fraternity and sorority life on campus, including improving “risk management, health and safety.” 

The plan will be announced no later than spring 2019. 

Princeton Review has considered UI to be one of the top 20 party schools in the U.S. Princeton Review considered UI the No.2 on that list in 2015. 

So what are your thoughts on this suspension? 

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Ohio University fraternity, Sigma Pi, under investigation after death of Collin Wiant

Eighteen-year-old Collin Wiant died Monday morning after someone called police reporting him unresponsive.

This was the call to 911 early Monday morning:

“We’re at (redacted) Mill Street, and one of my friends, he’s pretty unresp- like, I think he drank a little too much tonight.”
“Ok, is he responsive?”
“Um, he was, and then he kind of laid back, started passing out.”
“Ok, is he still breathing?”
“Yes.”
“Ok, I’ll send them down that way. Is there an apartment number?”
“It’s (redacted) Mill Street. We’ll carry him out. He’s pretty in and out, so like…”
“Well let’s not carry him out yet because it’s really cold outside and the squad takes a little bit. So let’s leave him there and I’ll send an officer down and the squad is heading that way too.”

Wiant was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.

Wiant of Dublin, Ohio, was a recent pledge of the Epsilon chapter of the international social collegiate fraternity Sigma Pi, Ohio University.

The university has issued an administrative directive to the fraternity demanding all organizational activities be stopped.

See the story here: 10TV News Story 

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

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KEEPING STUDENTS SAFE: A GUIDE ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR & PREVENT VIOLENT SITUATIONS AT SCHOOL

Community for Accredited Online Schools (CFAOS) is a comprehensive accreditation resource that provides prospective students and families with the tools needed to make well-informed decisions about their education.

One of the tools provided by CFAOS is a guide packed with information and advice to help keep students safe in school. The guide covers a broad range of school-related violence, turns the spotlight on shootings and gun crime, and has an expert Q&A on the issue of schools and gun control. They also focus on the countless causes of school violence.

The guide includes top resources for students and parents to turn to for further support. As school violence continues to be such an important concern, please view their guide here: https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/violence-prevention-schools/ 

 

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Bullying Led to Fatal Shooting of Bobby McKeithen

The New York Times | October 29, 2018 | By Sandra E. GarciaAndrew R. Chow and Matt Stevens

A student at a high school near Charlotte, N.C., fatally shot a schoolmate on Monday morning during a fight before classes began, sending dozens of horrified students fleeing for safety, the authorities said.

Officials said that bullying that had “escalated out of control” had led to the fatal encounter at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but would not say who had done the bullying.

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell, a patrol commander for the Matthews Police Department, at a news conference. “Several people knew about it — not knew there was going to be a shooting, but knew there was going to be a likelihood of some sort of altercation this morning.”

The police said that Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at the school, was fighting with Bobby McKeithen, 16, a sophomore, in a hallway after 7 a.m., when Mr. Cuffie shot Mr. McKeithen. They did not say what kind of gun was used or how many times Mr. McKeithen was shot.

Mr. Cuffie was charged with first-degree murder on Monday afternoon, Captain Tyrrell said. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

Bobby McKeithen, 16, a 10th grader at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., was shot to death at school early Monday.

“We have literally dozens if not hundreds of kids who were in the hallway when this fight took place who witnessed one of their own be shot and fall to the floor before they ran away in a panic,” said Clayton Wilcox, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent.

He said the school system was “incredibly saddened by the fact that we had a loss of life on one of our campuses today.”

In a statement late Monday, Mr. McKeithen’s family thanked the community for its prayers and asked for privacy, while also acknowledging that the “tragedy has impacted and changes our lives forever.”

“As parents we never expect to send our children to school and they not return home,” the statement said. “The pain that we are experiencing is a pain that no mother or no father should ever have to experience.”

In a telephone interview, Mario Black, the founder of the Million Youth March of Charlotte and a friend of the McKeithen family, described Mr. McKeithen as a young man who was respectful and outgoing. He loved to dance, was a football fan and could often be found on FaceTime with his friends, Mr. Black said.

Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at Butler High School, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing.

“It’s been an emotional day,” he said. “You hear about it other places, but for it to be here at the front door, it’s unbelievable.”

A school resource officer called the police Monday morning, saying that he was with the victim and that he had the perpetrator in custody, Captain Tyrrell said during the news conference. The school, its hallways crowded with students before classes began, immediately went into lockdown, according to the police.

“It’s been an extremely tragic event for us here in Matthews,” Capt. Tyrrell said, adding that the investigation was continuing.

Joseph Hanks, 32, had just dropped his son off at school after 7 a.m. when he saw people yelling, screaming and running out of the school.

“I saw a police officer in a full-blown run coming toward me, running as fast as he can,” Mr. Hanks said in a phone interview. “I heard what sounded like someone come over the P.A. system; I believe they were talking about the school lockdown.”

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell of the Matthews Police Department.

Mr. Hanks immediately started thinking of how to get his son and himself out of the area as quickly as possible. His son, Brennan Timmons, 15, had made it to the school’s entrance when he heard the officer yelling to leave. Brennan ran back to his father’s car.

“He told me, ‘There’s an active shooter in the school,’” Mr. Hanks said. “The other kids were yelling that there was a shooter, and everyone was pouring out, trying to get away from the school.”

After the shooting, many students were picked up by their parents, but classes remained in session for students who had not been picked up, Mr. Wilcox said. He added that school would be canceled at Butler High on Tuesday.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 dead, Mr. Wilcox proposed to county commissioners a $1.5 billion budget that included salary raises for teachers and funds for school safety measures. The budget allocated $9 million for hardened doors, two locksmiths, perimeter fencing, additional locks, glass reinforcement and classroom surveillance cameras. The budget also allocated $600,000 for nine security positions that included five police officers.

The budget was approved in June.

On Monday, the police could not immediately say how a student was able to obtain a firearm and bring it onto campus.

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “heartbroken to hear about today’s school violence.” He added that it was “critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools.”

Mr. Wilcox, the superintendent, said, “We are going to look into all of these things and make sure it never happens again.”

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences.

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