FAMU Fallout: Ga. high schools suspend bands

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ATLANTA, Ga.,None —

An Atlanta-area school district is suspending all marching band activities over concerns of "inappropriate physical activity" between students.

An email was sent to all 21 high school principals and marching band directors saying, it is "suspending until further notice all marching band activities while senior staff conducts a full scale investigation of possible inappropriate activities."

The district began investigating after Robert Champion, a former band member at one of the district's schools, died last month in what is believed to be hazing at a Florida A&M University. Champion attended Southwest DeKalb High, whose band is suspended, along with another Florida A&M student who says she was beaten so severely she could barely walk.

Walter Woods, spokesman for the DeKalb County school district, said Wednesday they were looking at every high school after two incidents during band activities over the summer. He declined to say whether the incidents involved hazing.

"Our interest is in protecting students, the safety of the students," said Woods. "We have notified schools to be vigilant of our existing policy, which is zero-tolerance for harassment of any kind."

He said the students involved were not injured enough to be treated at a hospital.

"We started asking people in the community, people at the school level, uh, about band, and about our programs. And at the same time, we also discovered that there was a band-related, inappropriate activity over the summer. All of these things put together led us to the decision today," Woods said.

Three students have been arrested in Florida in connection with the beating of Georgia resident Bria Shante Hunter, who told police that the pain became so unbearable in the days afterward that she went to the hospital.

Besides her broken thigh bone, she had had blood clots in her legs.

Sean Hobson, 23, and Aaron Golson, 19, were charged Monday with hazing and battery, and James Harris, 22, was charged with hazing.

Champion's death and now Monday's arrests have exposed a hazing tradition that has long haunted the university. Former clarinet player Ivery Luckey was hospitalized after he said he was paddled around 300 times in 1998. Three years later, band member Marcus Parker suffered kidney damage because of a beating with a paddle.

After Champion died, the university indefinitely suspended performances by the famed Marching 100 and school President James Ammons has vowed to break what he calls a "code of silence" surrounding hazing rituals.