FAMU High School Hazing Link? Ammons Stays

DeKalb County Schools halts all marching-band activities; the FAMU president survives board meeting.

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Gary Fineout of the Associated Press is reporting that Florida A&M University President James Ammons will keep his job during the hazing-death probe. The board of trustees decided not to suspend Ammons while authorities investigate the hazing death of a band member, Robert Champion Jr.

Fineout writes:

Florida A&M's president will keep his job after the university board of trustees Monday rejected a call from Gov. Rick Scott that James Ammons be suspended while the hazing death of a band member is investigated.

The decision comes three days after the state medical examiner ruled that 26-year-old Robert Champion's Nov. 19 death was a homicide. Officials say he was beaten so severely that he bled internally and went into shock. He died within an hour.

"We will stand firm against outside influence, no matter how well intended," Solomon Badger, the FAMU board chairman, said during a board meeting that was held by conference call. Scott said he would abide by the board's decision.

President Ammons' tenure as president is getting more complicated as stories are emerging that DeKalb County Schools in Georgia has suspended all band activities for possible links to FAMU's hazing scandal.

Bo Emerson and Ty Tagami of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that Robert Champion, who died Nov. 19, was a Southwest DeKalb High School graduate. FAMU clarinetist Bria Hunter, injured in an earlier alleged hazing incident, was also a Southwest DeKalb graduate, as were two of the three bandmates who were charged with punching her hard enough to break her leg. (The third defendant is a Druid Hills High School graduate.)

Worried by the connection, DeKalb County School System officials began questioning band directors and other school personnel throughout the system, and what they found was troubling.

"We have documented evidence of inappropriate activity that took place over the summer," system spokesman Walter Woods told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, announcing Wednesday afternoon that the school system was indefinitely suspending marching band activities at county high schools.

The school system's investigation unearthed some troubling "activity" beyond Southwest DeKalb, Woods said. He was not willing to disclose the nature of the incidents and said the investigation could take two months.