Possible hazing sidelines marching band

Clark Atlanta suspends band after possible hazing allegation

Clark Atlanta University temporarily suspended band performances by its Mighty Marching Panthers this week after receiving an allegation of possible hazing, the university announced on its website.

“While there is no immediate evidence of hazing or any other foul play, the University of its own volition chooses to take a thorough, comprehensive look into this serious matter,” the university said in a statement posted Aug. 30. Efforts were made Saturday to reach the university for comment.

The suspension caught many students off guard Saturday as the Division II Panthers football team prepared to face the University of West Alabama at Panther Stadium. The marching band’s expected performance at the season’s first at-home game was replaced by Atlanta’s Benjamin E. Mays High School marching band.

“The games won’t be the same without the band,” said Clark Atlanta freshman Tovonnia Lewis, 18. “But hazing is a problem. It should be resolved before the band is allowed to come back to play. I’m still going to the game tonight. I have to support my team.”

Clark Atlanta’s statement did not say when the alleged hazing incident might have taken place, how many band members may have been involved or the extent of the possible hazing. The statement also did not say whether police were involved in the investigation.

“Even the possibility of hazing is unacceptable under any circumstance,” the statement said. “Ideally, the allegations will prove untrue and the band can return to its planned schedule of performances as quickly as possible,” the statement added. “However, regardless of the findings, Clark Atlanta is prepared to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure a safe, healthy, non-threatening experience for our student musicians.”

The death last year of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion put a national spotlight on the practice of hazing on college campuses.

More than a dozen members of FAMU’s Marching 100 band have been charged with felony or misdemeanor hazing in connection with last November’s beating death of Champion, who was originally from Lithonia. Four of the accused are from metro Atlanta.

Investigators said Champion was forced to walk from the front to the back of a bus while other students punched, kicked and struck him with various objects. A Florida medical examiner ruled that Champion died of hemorrhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma.

The Mighty Marching Panthers have performed in seven Honda Battle of the Bands competitions and were featured in the 20th Century Fox movie “Drumline.”

“I think it’s wrong,” 18-year-old freshman Krystal Love said of hazings. “Nobody should go through something like that. You’re already in the band. Why do you need to be hazed, too?”

Sophomore Jamal Brown, 20, said “hazing happens.” He added that the band’s performance at games is important.

“Even if we get blown out 50 to nothing, it’ll be cool because the band played,” Brown said.

The Mighty Marching Panthers is the lead of several groups that make up Clark Atlanta’s band corps. Others include the Pep Band, the Symphonic Band, the Essence Dance Team, the CAU Drumline, and the Silver Breeze Flag Corps.

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Staff writer Daarel Burnette II contributed to this report