‘Adam’s Law’ passes unanimously through Virginia Senate

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:52 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2022 at 7:20 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Close to one year after VCU freshman Adam Oakes died from alcohol poisoning while pledging for the Delta Chi fraternity, two anti-hazing bills were introduced in this year’s General Assembly session.

Senate Bill 439, also called “Adam’s Law” in memory of Adam Oakes, passed with a unanimous vote from the Virginia Senate on Wednesday afternoon.

Since Adam’s death last February, his cousin, Courtney White, along with his father, Eric Oakes, have been advocating for change to Virginia’s hazing penalty and overall awareness of hazing incidents to prevent their tragedy from happening to another family.

“I think he would be proud of the changes that we’re making,” White said. “It’s just showing that all the hard work and the steps we’ve taken since Adam’s passing are coming to fruition.”

Part of “Adam’s law” proposes hazing prevention and training to students in colleges and universities across the state.

“Advisors have to go through extensive hazing training to be advisors of a student organization, and then they turn around and take their training, and they train the students in the organization,” White said. “We think that’s going to deter some of the behavior because you’re educating these students on hazing, what it is, what could happen.”

Another part of this bill would require colleges and universities to publicly post hazing incidents in student organizations.

“Knowledge is power. When people know things or they’re aware of things, they can make a better-educated decision if they want to join this fraternity,” said Eric Oakes, Adam Oakes’ father.

White also believes this could be an additional tool students can use in their decision-making process for the organizations they want to be a part of.

“Giving them the knowledge and the strategies and the tools they need to stand up against hazing, to not engage in hazing,” she said. “Knowledge is power, and giving them more knowledge is going to give them what they need to say ‘no.’”

“On the website of the organization of the school would be held for 10 years. So that if a prospective student were looking at different organizations, they were interested in joining, they would have that information to understand if there had been problems of hazing,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko, who is the chief patron of “Adam’s Law.”

Boysko, who represents Virginia’s 33rd District, has worked closely with Adam’s family to get these bills introduced into General Assembly.

“This has received broad support from my colleagues on the Republican and Democratic side,” she said.

Senate Bill 440 was also pre-filed, which would increase the hazing criminal penalty to a Class 5 Felony if it results in death or serious injury. The bill also provides immunity for arrest and prosecution to bystanders who seek medical attention during a hazing incident.

As these two anti-hazing bills continue to move through General Assembly, White hopes this will move forward to prevent another family from going through the tragedy they’ve faced.

“A little piece of me keeps thinking that Adam is with us, that Adam is pushing us, that he is guiding us to make these changes so that other people don’t go through what we went through,” White said.

Senator Boysko expects Senate Bill 440 to be heard in committee next week.

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