Thomas Kline: Penn State frat reaches settlement with parents whose son died after hazing allegations
The New Jersey parents whose son died after a booze-fueled fraternity party at Pennsylvania State University in 2017 have reached a settlement on their claims against the national fraternity that includes a plan designed to make Greek life safer at the organization's more than 100 chapters around the country, the family's attorney and the fraternity announced in a joint news release Tuesday.
The settlement also included a monetary payment, according to Tom Kline, the lawyer forJim and Evelyn Piazza. But neither the terms nor the amount were released by Kline or Justin Warren, a spokesman for theBeta Theta Pifraternity.
"We have mutually decided not to release the amount, which is a private matter," Kline said.
The Piazzas' son, Tim, died after falling down a flight of stairs at a fraternity partywhere, prosecutors have alleged,he was forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol as part of a hazing ritual. More than 20 fraternity members have been charged with hazing and other offenses; three have pleaded guilty.
"That the Piazza family has had to endure the loss of their beloved son and brother, Tim, remains one of the greatest disappointments and darkest hours in Beta's history," S. Wayne Kay, general secretary and chairman of the national Beta Theta Pi Foundation board, said in the statement. "It is heartbreaking and numbing to know our former members let Tim and his family down in such a tragic way."
The Piazzas also have a claim against Penn State; no negotiations have taken place, Kline said. They also plan to pursue claims against individual fraternity members who they believe were involved in their son's death, he said.
The 17-point plan agreed to as part of the settlement is a "binding, legally enforceable agreement," Kline said. It calls for Beta Theta Pi chapter houses nationally to be alcohol-free by August 2020 and to include the Piazzas in any decision-making about what happens with the Beta Theta Pi house on Penn State's campus. Penn State permanently revoked recognition of the fraternity after Piazza's death, but the house remains under the jurisdiction of the organization's housing corporation.
In addition, the agreement requires the national fraternity to revoke recognition of a local chapter if the host university takes that action. In the past, national fraternities have maintained recognition of groups Penn State has sanctioned.
The plan also calls for better education and training of members, and encourages local chapter houses to have a live-in adviser and security cameras on the premises.
The settlement, Kline said, "is an outgrowth of the determined dedication by Jim and Evelyn Piazza to the cause of preventing hazing injury and death in Greek life in the future."