“No parent should ever be concerned about sending their child off to college with his or her life or wellbeing put at risk just to join an organization,” said Jim Piazza, Timothy’s father.
Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old from Readington, died four and a half years ago after a night of drinking and hazing at Penn State University fraternity Beta Theta Pi.
Since then, his parents have become anti-hazing advocates.
“He was given lethal amounts of alcohol, as part of a hazing ritual called ‘The Gauntlet.’ He fell down a flight of stairs, was knocked unconscious, was severely bruised across his body. Despite being in distress, none of the fraternity members were willing to help him for fear of getting in trouble,” Jim Piazza said.
Murphy signed the Timothy J. Piazza Law, increasing the penalties for hazing if it causes serious bodily injury. Under the new law, hazing will be upgraded from a fourth-degree crime to a third-degree crime if it results in death or serious bodily injury.
All colleges, universities, high schools and middle schools, public and private, must adopt this new policy.
“Our son, Tim Piazza, died more than four years ago as a result of Fraternity hazing at Penn State University,” parents Jim and Evelyn Piazza said in a statement. “Since then, we along with other parents of hazing victims have worked to eradicate hazing on college campuses. We are grateful to Senator Kip Bateman for introducing this legislation and Governor Murphy and the other senators and assemblymen and women for supporting the New Jersey anti-hazing law bearing Tim’s name. This law will be the stiffest in the country and will hopefully deter this bad behavior and hold those accountable who choose to put someone’s well-being and/or life at risk as part of an initiation ritual.”
WATCH: Gov. Phil Muphy Signs Timothy Piazza Bill Into Law
“Hazing will no longer be treated with a symbolic smack on the back of the hand, or worse, a blind eye and a smirk. We will no longer tolerate actions that put anyone’s presumed privilege or power over the wellbeing of even one of their peers,” Murphy said. “Every college and university, indeed every high school and middle school — public and private — must have on their books unambiguous anti-hazing policies and clear penalties for violations. Moreover, when hazing turns violent or deadly, it will become a matter not just for a college administrator or a school principal, but the criminal justice system. And let there be no doubt, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The legislation was inspired by a letter written by Matthew Praeger when he was 12 years old. His brother was best friends with Tim.
“What did you want to see happen?” CBS2’s Meg Baker asked.
“I just wanted to make sure that nothing like what happened to Tim could ever happen to any kid ever again,” Matthew said.
The law also gives amnesty to those that call for help.
“Which is important because I think about what if that amnesty provision existed in Pennsylvania. Would somebody have stepped up to save Tim’s life?” Jim Piazza said.
Lawmakers say they hope the new law honoring Tim’s life and his parents’ advocacy saves lives and eradicates hazing as a “right of passage.”
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.