Vigil planned on anniversary of drum major's death

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DECATUR, Ga. - The family of a Florida A&M drum major who died a year ago after being beaten during a hazing ritual plan a candlelight vigil on Monday to mark the anniversary.

Authorities have charged more than a dozen fellow band members in Robert Champion's death. Champion's family, who lives in Georgia, was recently offered a $300,000 settlement from the school. Their attorney has called the offer "substantively low."

Ten FAMU band members face felony hazing charges in the case, while two others face misdemeanor counts.

In their lawsuit, Champion's parents contend university officials didn't take action to stop hazing, though a dean proposed suspending the famed Marching 100 band just days before their son died.

A family spokesman says the vigil will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Decatur, Ga.

There have been changes on FAMU's campus since Champion's death. Students face restrictions on joining some organizations and they can't register for classes without signing an anti-hazing pledge.

"I don't know if it will stop it completely, but it's a start," student Davante Webb said.

The slow response to the death eventually brought the resignation of then-FAMU President James Ammons.

In July, university trustees authorized the hiring of the Hazing Czar to oversee all student activities. The university is still interviewing for that position.

Interim President Dr. Larry Robinson says the university is making progress.

"However, we think that we elevated their understanding and sensitivity to the issue of hazing," Robinson said.

Gov. Rick Scott says his prayers go out to the Champions.

"They need to come to a resolution with the Champion family, they need to make sure that there is absolutely no hazing ever going to happen again," Scott said. "They got to do the right things. It's a great institution. They got to raise the bar."

At last Saturday's Orlando Classic, football fans gave a moment of silence for Champion and hazing victims everywhere.

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