FAMU aftermath: DeKalb suspends all high school marching band activities

I have been talking to experts on hazing in the wake of the FAMU scandal, and one shared conclusion is that college hazing rituals have spread to high schools.

DeKalb County Schools apparently is concerned about that possibility,  announcing today that the district is  suspending all marching band activities pending an investigation of “possible inappropriate activities” among  band members, alumni advisers, band directors and others.

Hazing has dominated the headlines because of the death last month of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. Metro Atlanta sends a lot of students to FAMU, so the death has been felt here, no where more acutely than Southwest DeKalb High school from which Champion graduated.

According to the AJC story:

System spokesman Walter Woods said officials started asking questions at Southwest DeKalb High School because of connections to alleged hazing incidents at FAMU. Robert Champion, the FAMU band member who died, and another member, Bria Shante Hunter, who was injured, graduated from Southwest DeKalb. Two of three FAMU band members charged with injuring Hunter also hailed from the high school.

The system investigation unearthed some troubling finds, Woods said. He was not willing to disclose their nature yet.

Marching band activities countywide, except in special cases such as an upcoming Martin Luther King Day parade performance, will be suspended.

“Our concern is that student safety needs to be assured,” Woods said. “And we have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or any other inappropriate behavior.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

216 comments Add your comment

Principal Skinner

December 14th, 2011
3:11 pm

I guess this means that there won’t be anymore hits from the SWD Drumline like, “B1tch You Ride the MARTA Bus”

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

December 14th, 2011
3:14 pm

Possible? Oh brother. Nothing like an overreaction. Yet another storm in a teacup.

drew (former teacher)

December 14th, 2011
3:20 pm

Talk about your knee-jerk reactions.

And I guess they probably need to shut down all of their sports programs too…I’ve heard hazing goes in athletics too. Maybe even at FAMU. And maybe some of the athletes came out of Dekalb. Yeah, definitely need to shut down athletics, too.

Atlanta Insider

December 14th, 2011
3:23 pm

I’m glad the truth is finally about to come out. Finally. This has been going on for years and it’s worse than people realize. This is not a knee-jerk reaction. Bad stuff is going on in these schools and people are talking to the officials about it. Dekalb is just as bad as APS if not worse.

Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

It’s about time an investigation was made into the SW Dekalb program. It has always been the recipient of special treatment and special funding from the county because Don Roberts was both the band director for SW Dekalb AND the Instrumental Coordinator for the county. Can you say CONFLICT OF INTEREST? I expect that there will be many skeletons found in that closet!

...and we wonder why

December 14th, 2011
3:27 pm

FAMU has over 13,000 students. The band has 400 students tops. Maybe 20-30 % of the band participated in hazing as highlighted in the young lady’s case it occurred OFF CAMPUS. This is a knee jerk reaction caused by the actions of not even 1% of a great university’s population.

At this point it has become sensational journalism. Although the police report says hazing has been involved in the death of Mr. Champion it also stated that no visible signs of foul play, meaning there is probably other factors the public has not even been made away of.

Hazing is 100 percent wrong but it also takes both parties to agree to participate.

Just A Teacher

December 14th, 2011
3:28 pm

I don’t think you should eliminate band classes and performances because a few kids misbehave. Do they do this with other classes too? Bobby was cutting up in Math class today, so we’ve eliminated the math program at the school. That sounds ridiculous to me!

roll tide

December 14th, 2011
3:28 pm

I don’t know how you can even call bands at some of these schools “marching bands” they (some) look like auditions for pimps and hoe’s. The way some of the color guard girls dance and act is discusting,

Warrior Woman

December 14th, 2011
3:31 pm

What a ridiculous and excessive overreaction – punishing everyone for the alleged infringements of a few!

HS Public Teacher

December 14th, 2011
3:49 pm

I was in the band in high school and enjoyed it very much.

However, in light of these incidents, and also in light of the cost in dollars to education, I feel that all non-core classes should be cut out of high schools.

We need to return to the basics and focus on them to ensure their success first. We need to excel in math, science, English, and history. This needs to happen BEFORE we worry about band, choir, foreign language, football, basketball, home economics, and so on.

Sorry if this offends anyone. It is just the way that I feel.

Ashley

December 14th, 2011
3:51 pm

My have times changed…..when I was in high school being in the band wasn’t considered a great achievement, as far as cliques go, the band and chorus weren’t look to kindly upon. As in most high-schools there is the unwritten hierachy: Jocks, cheeleaders, student government/honor society and clubs, average students, chorus and band members, one step above the slackers and smokers. I assure you 36 years ago no one was hazed for being in the band. Student agreeing to be brutalized to play an instrument is pathetic and repulsive. It seems a lot of these student don’t believe they have free-will or someone higher up they could turn to.

Prof

December 14th, 2011
3:56 pm

There’s an additional detail that should have been noted above. FAMU bandmembers Robert Champion (who died as a result of hazing), Bria Hunter (whose thigh was broken in hazing), and two of the three men who hazed Ms. Hunter, were all members of the band subgroup Red Dawg Order of Georgia–and all four came from SW DeKalb HS. Ms. Hunter said that she was beaten because she couldn’t remember facts about the Red Dawg Order. This all suggests that maybe there has been hazing going on in the HS band as well.

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:05 pm

Suspending all Dekalb County band activities is a bit over the top. Dekalb County Schools have some wonderful bands, band directors, parents and students. I also think that Mr. Don Roberts is a great person and is doing a wonderful job as the district’s band coordinator. This is a very dumb decision on the part of Dekalb County Schools.

With regard to Bria Hunter, I think that she made some very poor decisions that was hazardous to her health. I’m not sure if anyone saw this on the news last night, but check out this video:

http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/news/local_news/FOX-FOCUS-Former-FAMU-Band-Member-20111213-pm-pk

ME

December 14th, 2011
4:07 pm

This is the problem with our community. It is NOT the media’s fault that FAMU is messy and now folks are getting caught up. Be mad at the school and the people who helped keep this going, not the papers. Black schools are known for covering up hazing and turning a blind eye to it … Don’t be pissed because they are being put on blast.

carlosgvv

December 14th, 2011
4:07 pm

The student killed in Florida was a 26 year old senior. His death was reported as being caused by hazing. I wonder why no one has considered that maybe this was not a hazing death. Maybe this beating he recieved had nothing to do with hazing. Why is no one talking about this. Do we just take the word of those who did the violence that this was a hazing incident? Are they in jail facing murder charges?

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:14 pm

@ ME – I suggest you do some research before spewing misinformed, slanderous information about FAMU. All of these investigations of FAMU are political motivated. They people in charge of the investigations could care less about FAMU. Did you hear about the FSU female student that was shot and killed just this year in a greek house on campus? Two other people were shot, but survived. Did you hear about the young lady that was raped in FSU’s library last year? What about FSU’s academic fraud? None of these incidents received the media attention or investigations that FAMU is receiving. For your information, FSU is a “white school”. Stop making yourself look like a fool.

TakeNoSides

December 14th, 2011
4:17 pm

When do we stop blaming other and start making WISE personal choices for ourselves. As a member a Nationally recognized fraternity, I knew when I pledged what I was getting into. As with these underground band groups, students know what they are getting into. When Ms. Hunter went to an off campus apartment of 3 other men, was she going to sip tea? No! When do we start making GOOD PERSONAL choices??

mem

December 14th, 2011
4:21 pm

It’s unfair to punish all the schools in the county because of what is going in some marching band programs. This stuff starts within high school bands but nobody wants to admit it, so now it coming to light.

Whatevs

December 14th, 2011
4:23 pm

@darattler… your bias is showing. Get your head outta the clouds and stop projecting the wrong doing onto something/someone else. If you’re a Rattler, you should be embarrassed and ashamed by the actions of those at your alma mater. It matters not what FSU has done, is doing, or will do because the topic is FAMU. When the topic is FSU, then you can site all of your first-hand knowledge of the goings-on there. And no… I’m not white, brutha (or sista).

ME

December 14th, 2011
4:23 pm

Darattler … That’s all fine dear and I am well aware that FSU is a white school. So what? We know that we cannot do what white schools do. And I know very well what I am speaking of where black schools and hazing are concerned from personal and professional experience. Again, don’t be mad at the messengers be mad at those who screwed up. This is an issue FAMU created for itself, period.

Burroghston Broch

December 14th, 2011
4:24 pm

@ darattler
Somebody licked the red off your candy.
Maybe at the end of the day the good people of Florida will decide that they only need to support one university at Tallahassee. Wonder which one might survive?

Former MLK Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
4:24 pm

@Rolltide … your comment was so STUPID and UNNECESSARY! Just because the Crimson Tide’s band can’t inspire the fans don’t hate on High Schoolers!

Understanding Atlanta

December 14th, 2011
4:26 pm

Alright guys – as a graduate of both SWD and FAMU – I see this from two different viewpoints.

While I must admit it seemed that SWD has consistently received special treatment from the county because of it’s relationship with Don Roberts thats neither anything new or different than a school gettng special attention because it’s where the superintendent student’s go.

With the hazing incidents at FAMU, it stems from people wanting to be accepted. No one is forced to be hazed. We can call it a sub-culture, instituitional, rampant, whatever you like – it’s people wanting to belong. While the physical aspect is atrocious, it again is no different than leaving your friends to hang out with the “cool” kids. It’s about wanting to belong. From those I know personally that were in both bands, and did join these unsanctioned groups in the Marching 100.

DCSS could do an in-depth study and find that some fomr of hazing (phsyical and mental) takes place across many HS bands, espcially the one’s that are characterized by the same stepping style as FAMU. You could also do an investistagion into most college campuses and find hazing exists at some level or another.

I know hazing exists. There’s no denying that. I also know those who opted for and against it. Some thought it unnecessary while others a necessary evil to be accepted. Is it a widespread epidemic that effects every aspect of campus life? Not during my time on the hill.

Former MLK Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
4:27 pm

As for DeKalb County suspending Marching Band activities …. I feel it’s overreacting; you can be assured if those types of activities were happening within the majority of the schools the administration would have heard from the parental group long ago.

Whatevs

December 14th, 2011
4:28 pm

Also, @darattler, granted Ms. Hunter should NOT have gone to that apartment (poor decision making on HER part), blaming the victim who was beaten and sent to the hospital, is classless, tasteless, and crass. You MUST be young…

Since you have a penchant of straying from the topic, is is right for a woman to be assaulted if she’s wearing a skirt in a dark alley?? NO! Again, poor decision making on HER part, but don’t dare say she was “asking for it”. A weak and pathetic argument at best.

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:31 pm

@ Whatevs – You obviously didn’t get my point. I could care less about FSU or any the rest of the rogue colleges. I’m questioning the magnitude of the investigations at FAMU versus the almost non-existent investigations of other Florida colleges who have committed much worse crimes and are corrupt to the core. I don’t need your permission to tell me when I can discuss FSU or any other college. Lastly, I don’t care what color you are and I’m definitely not your “brutha or sista”.

Former MLK Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
4:34 pm

@HS Public Teacher … if you are indeed a ‘Teacher’ you should know that studies have borne out thatstudents who participates in in any of the Arts programs have tends to be better students with higher GPAs. You must a teacher of one of the ‘Core’ subjects and are afraid of losing your job; your comment is just crazy!

Former MLK Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
4:35 pm

REPOST … TO MANY ERRORS! :)

@HS Public Teacher … if you are indeed a ‘Teacher’ you should know that studies have borne out that students who participates in any of the Arts programs tend to be better students with higher GPAs. You must a teacher of one of the ‘Core’ subjects and are afraid of losing your job; your comment is just crazy!

Understanding Atlanta

December 14th, 2011
4:36 pm

Also, the death of Champion is said to have involved hazing. The official cause of death hasn’t yet been determined. There were no visible signs of trauma when he was found and hazing was only considered when other band members were interviewed after the autopsy came back inconclusive. Orange County officals have yet to determine if his death was caused by a direct result of hazing. I personally believe the cause of death will be something unrealted to the hazing with the hazing as a contributing factor.

Whatevs

December 14th, 2011
4:38 pm

@darattler, much worse than MURDER?! You can’t be serious?! Laughable! And it’s obvious you do care about FSU since it was the core of your argument. I’m done with you…

mem

December 14th, 2011
4:39 pm

@fomer MLK Band Mom, the administration would only find out if the students talk…trust me, they don’t because of the code of silence.

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:41 pm

@ Whatevs – I believe the victims are the good musicians at FAMU who never particiapated in hazing, but are being crucified because of bad decisions made by Bria Hunter and others.

If a woman dressed in a short dress enters a dark alley, KNOWING BEFOREHAND that several rapist are hanging out there, then she’s the fool for VOLUNTEERING to walk in that dark alley in the first place. It’s called CHOICES. You can choose to do right or you can choose to do wrong.

pmuckle

December 14th, 2011
4:45 pm

This is a serious matter however i don’t agree that all schools should suffer cause of it. The county knows who is involve so why delay and punished those or that school. The county is in need of new faces on the board ASAP. Starting with the new appointed superintendent she needs to go! What have she done for the county so far NOTHING but show how ignorant she was at Stephenson MLK game!!!! Cunningham is another one who needs the boot! It’ is time for a New DeKalb. WAKE UP PEOPLE AND LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!!!!. Don Roberts I’m sure being an alumi of Dekalb and FAMU it’s not looking good for you either. Remember the saying “what goes around come back and bite you in the butt! OUCH!

oldtimer

December 14th, 2011
4:47 pm

@HS Public Teacher…Every research article about “the arts” supports the positive affect art education have on students. Both of children played in Clayton Co. band program many years ago. The had great supportive directors. Band students recieved respect in competitions where they did did well. I do believe money spent on music and art is money well spent.

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:47 pm

@ Whatevs – Who was murdered? Do you know something that the rest of us don’t know?

roll tide

December 14th, 2011
4:48 pm

MLK Band Mom….Your MLK band is at best :”average”. You sure got defensive. I am not hating on high schoolers at all, just the way they allow the girls to dress and move about on the field is questionable. ROLL TIDE

pmuckle

December 14th, 2011
4:51 pm

@ROLL TIDE YOU ONLY UNDERSTAND RIVER DANCING… SHUT UP!

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:51 pm

MLK has a GREAT band and a GREAT band director.

26 yr old Senior?

December 14th, 2011
4:54 pm

Man, a 26 yr old sr. in college is like a kid driving himself to middle school.

darattler

December 14th, 2011
4:59 pm

@ Burroghston Broch – When the people of Florida decide that they need to support only one college in Tallahassee, my guess is that they will support the “least corrupt” one? Wonder which one might survive? I have a pretty good idea.

Dekalbite

December 14th, 2011
4:59 pm

I guess I just don’t understand why the ruling applied to all of the schools’ bands (20+). Did they not want to “single out” SW DeKalb’s band or did they want to look really, really tough?

I agree with poster who insisted there are no mitigating circumstances for what happened to Bria Hunter. This was a criminal act, and all who participated in it need to stand trial. Hopefully, Ms. Hunter’s parents will find redress in civil court as well.

vbfromfam

December 14th, 2011
5:03 pm

@darattler. As a fellow rattler I know that emotions are high. However the response that you and unfortunately many of my fellow alums to these recent incidents are why the reputation of what should be a great institution seems to be perpetually tarnished. I don’t know when you attended but when I was there in the late 90s, everyone on campus knew about the hazing in the band, the corruption in the administrative office, and the efforts to cover up any piece of dirt about FAMU by blaming anyone and everyone but ourselves. Sure other schools have issues, but to suggest that no one ever reports about the issues at FSU is ridicoulous and false. Plus as a rattler who cares. All I know is we have a dead young man, a severely injured young woman, more corruption and coverups and putting my head in the sand is not going to fix the problem and begin repairing my alma mater.

Really amazed

December 14th, 2011
5:10 pm

@Ashley, how very ignorant you are!!! The band students today are the best and brightest students in the school. They have to put in many hours of practice on top of core studies. If you make it to All-state, bonus. Colleges love high school band students!! My son was just nominated for Governor’s honors program for music. How mis-lead you are!

Papa J

December 14th, 2011
5:14 pm

When and why did hazing become so violent. Hazing used to consist of such things being required to wear a beanie to class for week. Who would and why in God’s name would anyone want to “beat” someone else, especially for something as meaningless and irrelevant as joining a band club? Moreover, why would anyone ever want to associate with, much less be identified with a group of people who could do such things to other people. I just cannot imagine the mindset or thought processes of people who would or could do such things to other people.

mem

December 14th, 2011
5:16 pm

@dekalbite, since Ms. Hunter attended SWD I’m sure she knew about the hazing and from what has been written, subjected herself to this on more than one occasion. Even though it is common knowledge at these high schools and colleges that hazing goes on within the marching band, the responsibility for this current mess should be equally shared between the band directors who came out of these organization and don’t warn against their practices, thereby tacitly endorsing them, students who participate, thinking they can “handle it” because others did. None of these kids ever thought it would get to this point, and the adults around them let them down. Yes, personal responsibility comes into play, but do you honestly think these dumb kids thought their actions could round so many lives?

Understanding Atlanta

December 14th, 2011
5:19 pm

As someone who had to go through 4 anti-hazing workshops (2005 – 2009) I’m still confused as why anyone at FAMU would knowingly break the law. Florida law doesn’t discriminate. Anyone who is involved in hazing is charged. We were told on several instances that if you are a willing participant in hazing you’re to be charged. That doesn’t always hold true.

Reading about the Bria Hunter case I recognize that no one should be put through that kind of an ordeal, however willingly participating for whatever the reasons are violate Florida law. Injuries or no injuries if you’re found to have gone through it that makes you guilty. The idea there is if you know that being hazed is just as serious an offense as the hazing you won’t do it.

The bigger question is, why not just say no? Don’t go to the secret sessions. Tell administrators about what’s going on.

Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
5:20 pm

Dekalb County won’t single out SW Dekalb because of its relationship with Don Roberts so everyone has to pay. Most of the Dekalb County Band programs are doing the best they can with limited budgets and little county support. I definitley agree with ROLL TIDE, however, that there are a few Dekalb County Bands who are training the next generation of Cheetah Club dancers! Oh My!

just a thought

December 14th, 2011
5:21 pm

Coming from someone who pledged and participated in a band at an HBC, I fully understand who is in position to correct this problem. Unfortunately, some of our youth will allow themselves to be subject to ridicule and physical harm just to be a part of something. That’s a culture and youth (maturity) issue. But, it’s the responsibility of the university (adults) to provide a safe environment for students. It will be up to the trustees to address this problem and rectify it.

roll tide

December 14th, 2011
5:21 pm

Many hours of practice for band. Must really be strenuous. Try straping on the pads and beating the crap out of each other day in and day out. You band people sit in the bleechers and toot your horns. Most of the coaches and players say the band is more of a distraction than anything….

Band Mom

December 14th, 2011
5:22 pm

And HIGH SCHOOL PUBLIC TEACHER – shame on you! Music programs produce and support some of the highest achieving HS students. Read up and enlighten yourself!