TRENTON, NJ - Legislation sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman, R-16th, to increase penalties for hazing resulting in injury was approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Timothy J. Piazza Law is named for a Penn State University sophomore from Readington who died during a fraternity hazing in 2017.
“Timothy’s death was a horrible and preventable tragedy,” said Bateman. “No college student should have to endure the horrors Timothy suffered. With the support of the Legislature, we can enact this law and protect young people from this dangerous and cruel practice.”
Bateman’s bill would increase hazing to a crime of the fourth degree, and aggravated hazing to a crime of the third degree. Currently, the charge reaches aggravated hazing when the criminal act results in serious bodily injury to another person.
“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,” Bateman said. “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.”
An investigation determined Piazza was pressured into consuming 18 alcohol drinks in 90 minutes. In light of the circumstances of his death, Bateman’s measure also prohibits causing, coercing, or forcing the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
“More than half of college students involved with fraternities, sports teams and other organizations experience hazing,” Bateman added. “No one should be subjected to ritual humiliation. Students must understand that hazing is a crime, and there are serious, life-altering consequences for engaging in such malicious and depraved behavior. This law will be a strong deterrent to ensure college kids get that message.”
Jim Piazza, Timothy’s father, told the committee that Pennsylvania recently passed similar legislation, and other states are following suit.
“Hazing is happening too often on college campuses and in high schools and middle schools as well,” said Piazza, who was accompanied by Timothy’s mom Evelyn. “We only hear about the high profile cases, but people are dying and there are so many other situations where people get seriously hurt. We want it to stop. We want to put an end to it.”