Posted: November 20, 2018

Tougher penalties. Possible prison terms. Forfeiture of property.

All are contained in Pennsylvania’s Act 80 of 2018, also known as the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, the measure enacted in an effort to deter similar future tragedies as that which claimed the life of the 19-year-old Penn State fraternity pledge for whom the law is named.

"I am proud to sign this new law that will make our colleges and universities safer,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at a Capitol ceremony. “There is no place for hazing on our campuses. And together, we will protect students from hazing and hold accountable those who engage in it.”

Kline & Specter attorneys Tom Kline, David Williams and Charles “Chip” Becker stood proudly behind Wolf as he affixed his signature to the law. Kline and Williams have represented Jim and Evelyn Piazza, the parents of Timothy, not only throughout criminal procedures in the case but also as they have lobbied in Pennsylvania and on national television shows for anti-hazing legislation. The three attorneys were instrumental in helping to draft the bill with staff members for Sen. Jake Corman, who initially introduced the measure last March. It eventually passed unanimously in the state House and Senate, and was signed into law on Oct. 19.

Kline told the news media: “The parents of Tim Piazza are grateful for the unanimous passage of the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing law which, they believe, will serve as a national model for anti-hazing legislation. In particular, today was a significant step forward in deterring and eradicating the scourge of hazing on university campuses throughout the nation.”

Since the bill’s introduction alone, Penn State has led two national conferences in which a growing number of college leaders indicated broad support for new action to make fraternity and sorority systems safer. At a recent meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a number of schools agreed to create a database led by Penn State that will allow universities to share legislative actions on a state-by-state basis as well as at the federal level. They would also share information about other measures designed to advance student safety.

The word “deter” has been a mantra repeated since the legislation was first introduced. The hope is that it will help make students safer as they pursue memberships in fraternities, sororities, sports teams and other college organizations.
 “The measure will hopefully serve as a model for legislatures across the country to enact,” Kline said recently. “This law, through its significant penalties for aggravated hazing and forfeiture of property will unquestionably deter bad conduct in the future and tragedies like the one that befell Timothy Piazza.”

Kline was referring to the most stringent part of the law, one that makes aggravated hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death a felony punishable by a sentence of prison. It also enables forfeiture of real estate, such as a fraternity house, where such events occur. Also importantly, the new law encourages people to come forward to help students in trouble or simply to report incidents of hazing by offering them safe harbor immunity. Because of these steps and more, the measure has been called the most comprehensive anti-hazing law in the nation.

Prior to the bill signing, Jim Piazza said: “We are proud today that the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law has been enacted. We have sadness in our hearts every day without Tim in our lives, but are encouraged that this law will serve to hold accountable those who commit the crime of hazing, which cost Tim his life and, by its deterrent effect, will save the lives of young men and women like Tim.”