‘Adam’s Law’: Two Bills Pre-Filed in General Assembly to Prevent Hazing Deaths, Educate New Fraternity Members

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After months of preparation by Virginia Commonwealth University freshman Adam Oakes’ family, two anti-hazing legislation bills have been pre-filed in the Virginia General Assembly for the 2022 session.

Oakes died of alcohol poisoning in February after a hazing incident at a Delta Chi fraternity party.

Since then, 11 people have been charged in his death — including one who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of unlawful hazing of a student and buying alcohol for a minor.

Oakes’ death inspired his family to take legislative action to prevent these types of tragedies from happening to other families.

Courtney White, Oakes’ cousin, along with Adam’s father, Eric Oakes, worked since February to bring the bills to the General Assembly, as well as working on programs to educate and transition high school seniors into college — teaching the impacts and warning signs of hazing.

Their goal was to change the penalty for deaths caused by hazing from a misdemeanor to a felony in the commonwealth.

The family also collaborated with Virginia senators Jennifer Boysko and Jennifer McClellan as well as Delegate Kathleen Murphy to ensure the health and safety of students and their families as a top priority in the bills.

House Bill 993 is pre-filed and pending committee referral. The bill is aimed at amending the definition of hazing to include “reckless or intentional act of causing another person to suffer severe emotional distress through outrageous or intolerable conduct when the severe emotional distress was caused by the outrageous or intolerable conduct.”

The bill is also aimed at changing the crime of hazing to a Class 5 felony if the result is death or serious bodily injury to any person.

The crime of hazing that does not result in death or serious bodily injury would remain a Class 1 misdemeanor if the bill passes.

The bill provides immunity from arrest and prosecution for hazing if a person in good faith seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for a person who has received a bodily injury by hazing or renders emergency care or assistance, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

House Bill 525 is pre-filed and pending committee referral. It is being championed as “Adam’s Law.” The goal of the bill is to continue Adam Oakes’ legacy. One of the proposals from the bill is to have an advisor present at all official events involving new members of Greek life.

The advisors would provide extensive, current and in-person education and information on hazing to all members and new members of the organization.

Beginning with the 2022–2023 academic year, the bill requires each institution to maintain and publicly report actual findings of violations of the institution’s code of conduct or of federal or state laws pertaining to hazing that are reported to campus authorities or local law enforcement.

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