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November 8, 2012

Florida A&M offers $300,000 to end hazing lawsuit

ORLANDO —  

An attorney for the family of a Florida A&M University drum major who died following a hazing incident said Thursday that a $300,000 settlement offer from the school is "insulting."

The amount offered is the maximum amount the university can pay without seeking approval by the Florida Legislature.

Attorney Chris Chestnut said it showed that the university wasn't serious about resolving the case with Robert Champion's family. Chestnut wouldn't say what amount the family would consider acceptable.

"Three hundred thousand dollars is substantively low," Chestnut said.

The school's settlement offer was made less than a week after efforts at all-day mediation failed last Friday in Orlando.

Robert Champion died nearly a year ago after being beaten by fellow band members aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel.

Champion's parents filed a lawsuit contending university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the famed Marching 100 band just days before their son died. The lawsuit also alleges that school officials fell short in enforcing anti-hazing policies.

Larry Robinson, FAMU's interim president, would not comment directly on the offer.

"We are in negotiations and we are working with our legal team to move this matter forward," said Robinson, who was in Sarasota attending a meeting of the state board that oversees the university system.

Back in September FAMU asked a judge to throw out the Champion lawsuit. That court filing said the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds, including that Champion should have refused to participate in hazing events and should have reported it to police.

The university also said at the time that taxpayers should not be held liable for Champion's decision.

The scandal surrounding Champion's death continues to haunt the school.

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