ATLANTA (AP) — Florida A&M University's insistence that it is not to blame for a drum major's death during a hazing ritual shows school officials are not taking responsibility for the safety of students, the band member's parents said Thursday.
Pam and Robert Champion Sr. said at a news conference in Atlanta that they were disappointed by court documents filed Monday by FAMU in response to their lawsuit against the school. The university said in its filing that 26-year-old Robert Champion, as a top leader in the band, should have refused to participate in the ritual. The school asked a judge to toss the lawsuit or at least to delay action on it until criminal charges against band members are resolved. Twelve former members have pleaded not guilty to charges of felony hazing.
"As a mother, I have to wonder what kind of people are we entrusting our students to," Pam Champion said. "They clearly didn't care about my son, who thought the world of this school, who would always promote it and talk it up. Robert did all the right things. The school didn't do him right."
Her husband called the school's response a "slap in the face."
"This is an opportunity for the school to say we do have problems and we're going to fix it, but instead they're in denial, so I say FAMU beware," he said.
Robert Champion died in November after he was beaten by fellow members of the famed Marching 100 band aboard a charter bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. The school said in its filing that no public university or college has a duty to protect an adult student from what happens as a result of that person's own decisions to participate in dangerous activities off campus and outside of university-sponsored events.
"FAMU is not 'blaming' anyone for this tragic loss; rather, the university has asked the court to decide the legal question of whether Florida's taxpayers can be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate according to the facts of the case as detailed in the pleadings and exhibits of record," Richard Mitchell, an attorney with the GrayRobinson law firm hired by FAMU, wrote in an email Monday.
Chris Chestnut, a lawyer representing the Champions, said the school is refusing to address the root problem.
"FAMU wants to make this about Robert Champion. The Champions have lost their son. This is about the decades of hazing that led up to Robert's death and the decades beyond this point where there's an opportunity for FAMU to rid itself of hazing and still have a very successful band program."
The lawsuit was filed by the Champions, who live in suburban Atlanta. University trustees had discussed trying to mediate the lawsuit, but the school's response this week may have doomed that effort. Chestnut said the lawsuit needs to go forward so the school is held accountable.
"This family is not filing this lawsuit for jackpot justice," Chestnut said. "We're filing this lawsuit for a legacy. Robert Champion can't be a drum major this season. That was taken from him, but he can be a drum major for justice now."
The Champions claim university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the band because of hazing three days before their son died. In its response, the university denied that any specific proposal or recommendation was made regarding suspending the band before Champion's death.
The Champion lawsuit also notes that school officials allowed nonstudents to play in the band and asserts that school officials fell short in enforcing anti-hazing policies and did not keep a close eye on band members to prevent hazing.
The university in the last several months has instituted a long list of new policies, including limiting the Marching 100 to just FAMU students and putting in new academic policies. Beginning in spring 2013, students will be required to sign an anti-hazing pledge before they're allowed to register for classes.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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