Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a bill into law which requires 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.
Under the 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, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.
The legislation is named after Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old Readington resident and Pennsylvania State University student who died after falling down a flight of stairs as a result of hazing in February 2017.
“The safety of our students is our top priority and we must do all we can to protect them from cruel and dangerous hazing rituals,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release. “With today’s bill signing, we honor Tim Piazza’s life and make our strongest effort yet to root out hazing to prevent similar tragedies.”
“This legislation places the issue of hazing front and center,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “It further emphasizes the importance of fostering positive school climates that help to develop character among students. In addition, it sends the message that this type of behavior is not acceptable.”
“This law will help colleges foster environments that protect students and keep them safe from harm, so they can focus on what matters most – their school work and continued success,” said Dr. Brian Bridges, secretary of higher education.
“Our greatest hope is that we never have to prosecute someone under this new law and that we are able to stamp out illegal hazing through the deterrent effect alone,” Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said.
“But should it become necessary, we will not hesitate to use the enhanced tools that Gov. Murphy and the Legislature have now given us to hold accountable those who break the law,” he said.
“Our son, Tim Piazza, died more than four years ago as a result of fraternity hazing at Penn State University,” said Jim and Evelyn Piazza. “Since then, we along with other parents of hazing victims have worked to eradicate hazing on college campuses.
“We are grateful to Sen. Kip Bateman for introducing this legislation and Gov. Murphy and the other senators and assemblymen and assemblywomen for supporting the New Jersey anti-hazing law bearing Tim’s name.
“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,” they said.
“Timothy Piazza was a 19-year-old Penn State University student who tragically died in 2017 during a fraternity hazing ritual. Shortly after his death, I received a letter from Matthew Prager, a 12-year-old student who was Timothy’s friend and neighbor, asking that I introduce anti-hazing legislation in Timothy’s name,” Bateman said.
“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 he lost his life. With the signing of this bill, hazing will no longer be tolerated in New Jersey,” Bateman said.
“Individuals who engage in hazing foster a culture of humiliation and violence. And yet, more than half of all students are hazed at some point during their college career,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.
“This legislation, which was spurred by the tragic loss of Timothy Piazza who died during a fraternity hazing ritual, sends a clear message: if you engage in deplorable acts like hazing, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Kean said.