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Family of deceased band member rejects settlement offer

The family of a marching band member who was killed in a hazing incident has rejected a recent settlement offered to resolve the wrongful death suit brought against Florida A&M University. Pamela and Robert Champion Sr. explained that they were "insulted" by the offer, and did not believe that the amount was acceptable given the circumstances surrounding the loss of their son.

Through their attorney, the Champions said that they remained concerned that the school was not taking the matter as seriously as they could.

Robert Champion Jr. was a student and drum major at the school. He died on November 19, 2011 after being beaten aboard a bus before the band was to perform at the Florida Classic (a football game between Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman College, two of Florida's historically black colleges). His parents brought a wrongful death suit in July, claiming that the school had enabled a dangerous culture of hazing that led to the death of their son.

The university claims that Champion willingly took part in the hazing, and that he violated Florida law for his part in the practice. Also, attorneys for the school indicated that the $300,000 settlement offer was the maximum amount that could be granted without seeking prior approval from the state legislature. Lawyers for the school hinted that Florida taxpayers should not be held liable for Champion's death since he participated in the ritual even after signing an anti-hazing pledge.

Eleven former band members have pleaded not-guilty to criminal charges stemming from the incident. A twelfth member was given community service after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges in October.

In the meantime, the Champions' attorney indicated that the case will proceed to trial.

Source: Orlando, Robert Champion's family rejects $300,000 FAMU settlement, November 8, 2012

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