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New state anti-hazing law designed to protect college students

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

As college students prepare to return to campuses in the next couple of weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new anti-hazing law Monday. It prohibits certain physical contact or requiring physical activity during an organization's initiating ceremony to prevent the deaths or serious injuries of students during fraternity pledging. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked to a local couple who lost their son in fraternity hazing four years ago.  

“We believe there needs to oversight – there has to be,” said TJ Burch of Williamsville.

Burch’s son Nolan died of acute alcohol poisoning at West Virginia University. It happened following a final night of fraternity pledging in November of 2014. He was told to drink an entire bottle of 100 proof whisky in under an hour by his fraternity "big brother." Nolan's body was brought back to a frat house, but classmates did not respond quickly enough. He ended up on life support for a couple of days.

Burch and his wife Kimberly are pleased to see stronger anti-hazing laws here in New York State to protect students, but they say it doesn't go far enough.

“I just don’t think these young kids are looking at this and taking all that serious,” responded Kimberly Burch.

“At the end of the day, in a lot of these cases, especially when a child dies unfortunately – it’s murder,” said TJ Burch.  

The new law was prompted by the death of a New York City college student in 2013. He died as a result of head injury during a fraternity hazing ritual.  The Burch's established a foundation to educate young adults on the dangers of hazing. They’re preparing a real-life video of the painful hazing that occurred to their son as a learning tool.

“The video that we have of Nolan essentially dying. Our goal is to speak with organizations or whoever will have us to show that video.     

Credit Photo from Nolan Burch Foundation webpage
Nolan Burch died of acute alcohol poisoning at West Virginal University in 2014.

“We want these kids to see exactly what happened to Nolan and I don’t think there is any other way to show that then to actually show Nolan, like my husband said dying.  Once we this exactly the way we want it, where hoping it will be received very, very well. We didn’t throw any punches with it. It’s raw,” declared the Burch’s.

The governor said the state is taking hazing seriously and will have “zero tolerance” for the hazing abuses.  

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