New Anti-Hazing Law Requires Schools to Toughen Policies, Increases Penalties to Protect Students
TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey's new "Tim J. Piazza's Law" puts in place stringent guidelines requiring public and non-public middle schools and high schools, as well as higher education institutions, to adopt anti-hazing policies and penalties for violations of the policies.
The law honors the life of Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old Readington resident and Penn State University student who died after falling down a flight of stairs as a result of hazing in February 2017.
"Our son, Tim Piazza, died more than four years ago as a result of Fraternity hazing at Penn State University. Since then, we along with other parents of hazing victims have worked to eradicate hazing on college campuses," said Jim and Evelyn Piazza. "This law will be the stiffest in the country and will hopefully deter this bad behavior and hold those accountable who choose to put someone's well-being and / or life at risk as part of an initiation ritual."
Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) wrote the legislation after receiving a letter from Matthew Prager, a 12-year-old student who was Timothy's friend and neighbor, asking for an anti-hazing law in Timothy's name.
"To this day, I am grateful to Matthew for sending me that letter. No student deserves to go through the ritual humiliation that 19-year-old Timothy Piazza experienced on the night that he lost his life. With the signing of this bill, hazing will no longer be tolerated in New Jersey," said Bateman.
Under this new law, hazing will be upgraded from a fourth-degree crime to a third-degree crime if it results in death or serious bodily injury, and from a disorderly persons offense to a fourth-degree crime if it results in bodily injury.
"For too long, hazing has been used as a rite of passage into college fraternities and sororities. It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and tragically, at times it is deadly," said Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), who was a sponsor of the measure. "However, as a member of a Greek organization, I am saying 'enough is enough.' If students are hazing another student, they must understand the seriousness of this illegal practice and what's at stake. The signing of this legislation will ensure there are real consequences for their actions."
"Hazing has been a problem plaguing our institutions of higher education for years," said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington). "Far too many students looking to socialize and fit in with their peers have been pressured into participating in dangerous activities with very real consequences. We must do everything we can to prevent the loss of any more lives as a result of hazing."
The measure will take effect in seven months.