Louisiana Toughens Laws Against Hazing After Student's Death

 

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The death of a Louisiana State University student after a fraternity drinking ritual has spurred the state to strengthen its laws against hazing.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed bills Thursday to make hazing that kills someone a felony , require schools to teach students about hazing, and levy fines on organizations that knowingly allow hazing. He also made law a measure to impose criminal penalties on someone who doesn't seek medical attention when reckless behavior such as binge drinking results in injury.

The Democrat said the state has taken a positive step in curtailing hazing but added that the work must continue.

"This is not mission accomplished. This is a good start to what is going to be an ongoing process," he said.

Legislators acted at the urging of the parents of LSU freshman Maxwell Gruver's parents.

"The state of Louisiana really reacted strongly and came to the table with these four laws that were signed by the governor today," said Stephen Gruver, Maxwell's father. "It says a lot."

One of the measures, The Max Gruver Act, creates a felony hazing charge of up to five years in prison when a victim dies or is seriously injured. Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Landry, the bill also would increase the current penalties for hazing from up to 30 days in jail to a maximum of six months. Organizations that knowingly allow hazing could also face a fine of up to $10,000 and be barred from operating under the law.

Edwards also signed a proposal that would shield from public records requests documents that identify anyone who reports a violation of a student code of conduct on a college campus. He said it would protect those who report hazing incidents.

Fraternity members found Gruver, 18, lying on a couch and couldn't tell if he was breathing after a night of heavy drinking at the Phi Delta Theta house on LSU's campus last September, authorities said. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. His blood alcohol content was six times higher than the legal limit for driving. Four people were charged in Gruver's death. All have pleaded not guilty.

In March, LSU announced that it rescinded the fraternity's registration at the college. Phi Delta Theta said it was suspending operations at the university shortly after the death.

With the governor's signature, Louisiana joined at least 11 other states that have made hazing a felony when it ends in death or serious injury, according to The National Conference of State Legislatures. Hazing deaths at other universities have also led to criminal charges in states including Florida and Pennsylvania.

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House Bills 78, 793, 446 and 270: www.legis.la.gov

– by Anthony Izaguirre, AP reporter

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