New hazing bill would ban convicted from Ga. schools

by: Manuel Bojorquez Updated:

Robert Champion
ATLANTA,None —

Georgia lawmakers trying to ban students convicted of hazing from any school in the state were told to prepare for a fight.

"You're going to get some calls from folks who are gonna say, 'You gotta find a way to write us out of this, we just can't have this'," said Terry Lawler, a former state representative who helped put an anti-hazing law in the books in 1986.

Lawler was one of several experts who testified before the Education Subcommittee on Academic Support, at a hearing about House Bill 659.

The bill would ban students found guilty of hazing from attending any state school.

The case of Southwest DeKalb High School graduate Robert Champion was frequently referenced during the hearing.

Champion, a member of the FAMU Marching 100 band, died late last year in Orlando as a result of hazing, according to authorities.

"His death will be for naught if we do not translate that dialogue into actions," said Joseph Gilman, Executive Director of HazingPrevention.org.

Lawmakers had several questions about the bill, including whether it may go too far in punishing students who made a mistake in the past.

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One suggestion was to make the bill 'two strikes you're out', rather than basing it on one conviction.

Lawmakers are still working on the language of the bill, but Lawler said many organizations may asked to be exempt from the bill as it stands, citing "tradition".

"I expect that these legislators will get calls from folks saying, 'This is not big deal and you need to exempt us,' he told Channel 2 Action News reporter Manuel Bojorquez.

"It's going to be a very difficult challenge, I think, for our legislature to draw up language in a way that gets at this problem without making some people very uncomfortable," Lawler added.