Florida A&M Seeks Settlement With Dead Drum Major’s Family

The parents of Robert Champion, the band drum major who died, say they remain committed to their lawsuit.

Posted: 08/16/2012 02:30 AM EDT
Robert Champion

The administration of Florida A&M University is seeking to establish an out-of-court settlement with the parents that sued the college over the hazing death of their son, who was a member of the marching band. 

The university’s board of trustees voted to instruct attorneys representing the university to enter a voluntary mediation session with attorneys for the parents of Robert Champion.

Champion’s parents, Robert and Pamela Champion, filed a lawsuit against the university. The Champions, who live in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Georgia, said in the suit that university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the band because of hazing three days before their son died.

The death of Champion rocked the campus and the nation and even led to the resignation last month of Florida A&M’s president, James Ammons. It has led to the establishment of a committee to look into the matter of hazing with the school’s famed marching band.

It is not clear, however, whether the school will be able to convince the Champions to settle the matter out of court. Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for the Champions, said the band member’s parents are still committed to going to trial, but that a judge would require that mediation be attempted before a trial takes place.

“We have not committed to mediation,” Chestnut said. “We are engaged in and committed to aggressively litigating this case in the memory of Robert Champion and to protect other students.” 

Champion, who was 26 and a member of the celebrated Florida A&M marching band, died Nov. 19 in Orlando after a beating aboard the band's bus following a performance at Bethune Cookman University.

Shortly afterward, 11 members of the band were charged with felony hazing. Two other band members received misdemeanor charges for allegedly participating in the hazing activity. They have maintained that they are innocent.

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(Photo: AP/FILE)