Piazzas addresses introduction of antihazing legislation

Jim Piazza, alongside Evelyn Piazza, addresses the media during a press conference explaining their role and feelings of new Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing legislation during the second Penn State Beta Theta Pi preliminary hearing at the Centre County Courthouse on Friday, March 23, 2018.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza were selected for the 2018 Hank Nuwer Anti-Hazing Hero Award.

According to HazingPrevention.Org (HPO), the award recognizes nominated individuals who stood up to hazing in their organizations, as well as those who have helped educate others about the dangers of hazing.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza are the parents of the late Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

Piazza died on Feb. 4, 2017, two days after falling down a flight of stairs at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on the bid acceptance night at the Penn State fraternity.

Prior to the incident, Piazza participated in an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual known as the gauntlet, according to investigators. His injuries included a fractured skull and lacerated spleen.

HPO announced on their website the Piazzas were nominated because they “have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of hazing.”

Some of these actions included speaking nationally through the media, numerous speaking engagements with groups on campuses nationwide, advocating for federal and state laws, reforming policies and procedures at the university and national organizational level, and helping to found PUSH, an organization representing parents who have lost children to hazing.

These efforts can be seen on a state level, as the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-hazing Law was passed through the Pennsylvania Senate on April 18. The law was created to prevent future hazing-related tragedies by addressing prevention, enforcement and transparency.

The law is currently awaiting a decision in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

"We are honored to be recognized for the 2018 Hank Nuwer Anti-Hazing Hero Award,” Jim Piazza said in an email statement. "Although we are obviously saddened to be in this situation, we have made a commitment to work towards educating and bringing awareness to others about the dangers of hazing and to stiffen the penalties and enforcement for individuals who do haze."

HPO is a national nonprofit organization that is “dedicated to empowering people to prevent hazing, by providing education and resources, advocating on hazing prevention, and building partnerships with others.”

According to the HPO website, the organization started in 2007 when the founder, Tracy Maxwell, “decided to do something that would turn the conversation about hazing from how to punish those who haze to how to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

"We are proud to be standing with a number of other impacted families, who we now call friends, in working towards our collective goal of eradicating hazing from Greek Life and other organizations," Jim Piazza continued in his statement. "No one should lose their life or be seriously injured for just wanting to join an organization."

On a university level, Penn State has reformed many aspects of it’s greek program, including the way it monitors organizations. Other universities have encountered similar problems with hazing in greek organizations in recent years.

HPO also nominated Devon Marrett this year for the award.

Marrett served as a Drum Major with the Florida A&M University Marching 100 band program for two years. He then stopped participating in the band one semester before the hazing death of fellow drum major, Robert Champion.

After Champion’ death, Marrett enrolled in the university’s Community Psychology program and worked as a member of the Anti-Hazing Research Initiative grant.

Once out of the program, Marrett began delivering public speeches and educational workshops to younger students to prevent future hazing and became the Founder and CEO of DM Empowerment.

According to HPO, DM Empowerment provides “student leadership development, college readiness preparation, marching band drum major training, and hazing prevention education to high school students.”

Marrett is also a graduate of the HazingPrevention.Org Institute.

Now several years following its inception, the HPO program has expanded its mission to begin education as early as middle school and started initiatives that include National Hazing Prevention Week™, the HazingPrevention.Org Institute for Hazing Prevention™ and Prevent.Zone™ educational online courses.

This year’s Anti-Hazing Hero Awards were made possible with support from Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Fraternal Law Partners and Hank Nuwer.

The award is also named in honor of Hank Nuwer, who was an anti-hazing advocate, historical researcher, journalist and an author of numerous books on hazing.

Last year, Michelle Guobadia, Mark Teixeira and Monica Youngblood were nominated for the award and HPO has a record of recipients of the award since 2007 on their website.

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