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Bowie State student sues fraternity over alleged hazing

Baltimore-based fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha has suspended its Bowie State University chapter amid allegations that pledges there were hazed in 2013.

Kevin Hayes, who says he pledged the fraternity's Eta Zeta chapter at Bowie last year, alleged in a lawsuit filed Monday that chapter leaders punched, hit, slapped and paddled him and other pledges.

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Hayes, now a junior at Bowie and still a member of the fraternity, is seeking $3 million in damages from Alpha Phi Alpha's national office and three chapter leaders. He filed the lawsuit in Prince George's County Circuit Court.

His attorney said Hayes wants to end hazing at the chapter.

"When they get hit in the pocket, they're going to change their behavior," attorney Jimmy A. Bell said. "They beat him for no reason, and the people who were supposed to protect him … didn't do nothing.

"This is bullying, and we're going to stop the bullying."

Hayes says Alpha Phi Alpha condoned battery, hazing and false imprisonment and was grossly negligent in its failure to train and supervise chapter leaders.

In a statement, the national fraternity described suspension of the chapter as "part of our standard protocol when the national headquarters has received a hazing allegation regarding any of its chapters."

The fraternity declined to comment on the specific allegations. It said in the statement that it was investigating the allegations, and any member who is found to have violated its anti-hazing policy would be suspended and recommended for expulsion.

Hayes says pledges were subjected to nightly instruction on fraternity and chapter information. If pledges faltered, he says, they were abused by chapter leaders, who sometimes wore masks.

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Hayes says pledges were told not to wear certain colors and were placed on a social probation that limited the people with whom they could speak. They were also told not to talk about their pledging experiences, he says in the lawsuit.

Though Hayes remains a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter, he says he has been ostracized by other members.

Hayes' mother complained to Bowie State's Greek Affairs office and the chapter adviser about the alleged hazing, he says in the lawsuit.

Bowie State officials declined to discuss the allegations but said in a statement that hazing is "indefensible" and "contrary to the interest of the university community." Officials said the university has an anti-hazing education program, but it did not offer details.

Alpha Phi Alpha's chapter adviser, Mark Guthrie, a university employee and a defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond to email and phone messages left at his office Tuesday.

An examination of university disciplinary records by The Baltimore Sun this year found that hazing persists in fraternities, sororities and other student organizations at Maryland's public universities. Allegations included excessive drinking, humiliation, harassment and physical violence. Some universities have increased anti-hazing education in recent years.

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Under Maryland law, hazing is a misdemeanor criminal defense that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

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