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Max Gruver's parents give tearful testimony before House panel approves tougher hazing penalties

 A bill to add stiffer penalties for hazing is on its way to the full Louisiana state house for consideration after getting approval by a House committee.

The grief which continues to grip Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver was palpable Wednesday in a state capitol meeting room.

“Now our family is broken. we will never be the same.  We wake up every day knowing that part of  our family is gone and a part of our heart is missing,” said Rae Ann Gruver, mother of Max Gruver, before the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Her son, a freshman, died at LSU last fall during a hazing ritual.  He had a blood alcohol level that was six times higher than the legal limit for driving.

"Max had written a passage and I want to read it to you. He wrote God works in funny ways, he does bad things sometimes because in the end they're good,” said Stephen Gruver, Max’s father.

The proposed “Max Gruver Act” makes hazing which results in death a felony.  Current state law treats hazing as a misdemeanor and under it the maximum penalty is up to 30 days in jail.

If the proposed new law is approved by the legislature and signed by Governor John Bel Edwards anyone found to have participated in hazing that leaves someone seriously injured, or dead would get a prison term of up to five years in prison, and a fine not exceeding $10,000.

At the University of New Orleans some students said they definitely favor toughening hazing laws.

"It's necessary, it's sad that it's gotten to the point that the law has to get involved,” said Miya Terrell, a student at UNO.
"It's absolutely necessary.  This is a very developmental time in most people's lives, and in college there are a lot of outside forces like peer pressure,” said UNO student Joseph Nolan.

And some students here at the University of New Orleans said they are already being educated about the perils of hazing.

"At UNO, they're definitely strict about hazing and they don't tolerate anything which is very good and it makes the other students feel safe, as well,” Terrell stated.

"We have courses here at UNO like about hazing, anti-hazing, anti-hazing policies in Greek life,” said Nolan.

The bill which won the committee’s approval also penalizes organizations that fail to report hazing with a $10,000.  The amount was amended downward from the author’s original intention of $100,000.

And schools could be liable if their leaders fail to notify law enforcement of hazing.  District attorneys would have discretion in that area.

Some students at UNO feel strongly that prohibiting hazing will not deflate the fun of campus life.

"Most definitely, it doesn't, it's not required. You can receive a bond without being hazed,” said Terrell.

"Something very bad happened to our son.  House Bill 78 will help us ultimately create good in this state and the rest of the country,” said Mr. Gruver.

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