The DeKalb County School System has suspended all marching band activities after hazing allegations at a Florida university have led the system to launch a full-scale investigation of its own.
School system spokesman Walter Woods said on Dec. 14 that Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson advised all principals and personnel to suspend marching band activities at DeKalb’s 21 high schools until further notice.
“It could take just 30 or 60 days, or longer, until we get to the bottom of it,” Woods said.
Woods said the recent death of Robert Champion, a Southwest DeKalb High School graduate attending Florida A&M University (FAMU) who died during an alleged hazing incident in November, led the system to send a note to principals and band directors to “be vigilant.” The letter also reminded officials of the system’s zero tolerance policy toward all harassment of any kind.
The situation at FAMU snowballed as allegations of another incident were brought to light. Bria Shante Hunter, a Southwest DeKalb graduate, said in a recent lawsuit that she suffered a beating which caused a cracked thigh bone a few weeks before Champion died. Hunter was allegedly beaten by three members of FAMU’s Marching 100; two of the accused are also graduates of DeKalb schools, according to reports. All three of the accused band members have been arrested in Tallahassee and charged with assault.
According to reports, Sean Hobson, 23, Aaron Golson, 19 and James Harris, 22, were charged with allegedly assaulting Hunter. Hobson is a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School and Harris attended Druid Hills High School.
“We started talking to people in the district and received some complaints from parents and there’s at least one documented incident related to band at one of the high schools that happened over the summer,” Woods said.
Woods said those factors played a role in the superintendent’s decision. He emphasized the incident that occurred over the summer was “inappropriate behavior” and not hazing.
The only band event that isn’t being cancelled is the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Stone Mountain, in which four DeKalb marching bands are participating. Although football season recently ended, Woods said it was just a coincidence the system has waited until now to suspend all band activities.