TRENTON, N.J. - Following the tragic death of a local teen, state Sen. Kip Bateman has introduced the “Timothy J. Piazza Law,” to increase criminal penalties for hazing.

Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State University student, died last year after a fraternity hazing ritual. Timothy’s death was captured by a video that showed Penn State University fraternity brothers ignoring Timothy’s unconscious condition.

Piazza, for whom the bill is named, was a native of Readington.

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“Every college student has the right to live and learn in a safe environment without fear, and parents who send their child off to school should expect no less,” Bateman said. “Unless we explicitly prohibit the deep-rooted custom of hazing, more families will suffer like the Piazzas. While I can never erase their pain, I appreciate their activism in the wake of extreme adversity. No student should undergo such a gruesome experience. I hope Tim’s tragic passing will evoke real change.”

The bill would increase hazing to a crime of the fourth degree. It would also increase aggravated hazing to a crime of the third degree.

Under current law, the crime reaches aggravated hazing when the criminal act results in serious bodily injury to another person.

In light of the circumstances surrounding Piazza’s untimely death, the “Timothy J. Piazza Law” would also clarify that prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, causing, coercing, or forcing the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

“I cannot imagine the agony that Timothy Piazza endured during the final moments of his life,” Bateman added. “What is so heartbreaking about this tragedy is that Timothy’s ‘so called’ brothers overwhelmed him with intoxicating amounts of alcohol – all the while ignoring his lifeless condition. At what point do we have to say, enough is enough? We need to completely change the culture that causes students to engage in hazing, starting by increasing the penalties for committing such a heinous crime.”

Piazza was a graduate of Hunterdon Central High School. During his time at Penn State University, Piazza studied engineering and was an active member of the school’s community. He is survived by his parents, Jim and Evelyn, and his brother, Michael.

“We would like to express our gratitude to Senator Bateman for his sponsoring of the ‘Timothy J. Piazza Law,’ that would stiffen penalties for hazing in the State of New Jersey,” Jim Piazza, the father of Timothy Piazza, said. “We would also like to express our sincere and deep gratitude to Matthew Prager, a 12-year-old young man and the younger brother of one of Tim’s closest friends and a friend of Tim’s as well, for reaching out to Sen. Bateman advocating for the support of the law.

“Hazing is a crime that must not be tolerated; impactful laws and proper enforcement are the only real deterrent for it happening in the future. We are incredibly moved that this was recognized by such a young man, and that the Senator respected his opinion enough to carry this forward,” Jim Piazza added.

“More than half of college students involved in organizations, such as a sports team or a fraternity, experience hazing,” Bateman said. “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. Tim’s tragic passing proves that we need a stronger deterrent to ensure college kids get that message.”

“I asked Sen. Bateman to change the law after my neighbor Tim Piazza died from hazing,” Matthew Prager said. “Even though I am only 12 years old, I know how bad hazing could be. I think it’s important for everyone to realize that bullying and hazing are not okay. I hope that a new, tougher law will prevent this from happening to other people.”

“Matthew’s letter gave me great hope. As a parent, this is an issue that is deeply personal to me, and I am glad to see that younger kids are taking this so seriously. Matthew: we will fight for this law in Tim’s memory,” Bateman said.