‘We want to make real change’: Adam’s Law signed by Gov. Youngkin

"Adam's Law" will require hazing prevention training and colleges to publicly post hazing violations from student organizations online.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 3:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 4:21 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Among the hundreds of bills Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law, one aims to expand hazing education and training on college campuses.

Last week, Governor Youngkin signed “Adam’s Law,” a piece of legislation named in memory of Adam Oakes, who died from alcohol poisoning after accepting a bid to join the Delta Chi chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University in Feb. 2021.

Since Adam’s death, his family has advocated for change through several avenues like their nonprofit, the Love Like Adam Foundation, and two bills reaching state lawmakers in General Assembly, including “Adam’s Law.”

“I think it’s a bittersweet moment,” said Courtney White, Adam Oakes’ cousin. “It’s kind of like nothing that we do moving forward is going to bring Adam back, but we were just able to collaborate with lawmakers and have a law passed that will surpass us.”

Under Adam’s law, colleges in Virginia will be required to provide hazing prevention training to current, new and potential new members of student organizations about “hazing, the dangers of hazing, including alcohol intoxication.”

“Adam’s Law is going to give kids the tools they need that Adam didn’t have and wasn’t afforded to say no, to stand up, to stop being bystanders and be interveners,” said White.

“Adam’s Law” will also add immunity from disciplinary action to those who, in good faith, report an act of hazing and call for help.

“We hope this piece of the law will encourage people to stand up, make that phone call, get that person help,” he said.

Another piece of this legislation is requiring colleges to maintain and publicly post hazing violations reported from student organizations online.

“We’re giving parents again another tool that Eric and Linda didn’t have to be able to say, ’This is a bad organization. I think you should select another one,’' White said. “So better decision-making skills too.”

Through this law, Eric Oakes sees his son’s legacy lives on.

“Adam looked after other people. That’s what he did. When he was out with his friends, he always looked out for his friends,” said Oakes. “He’s doing it again today, trying to help others and make sure they have a safe experience in clubs, fraternities, sororities, and organizations.”

A memory his family hopes will save lives in the future.

“I just honestly see my kids and what they’re going to have that Adam didn’t, and that fills me with pride knowing Eric, and I worked so hard to put something in place to change the future generations,” said White.

“Adam’s Law” will go into effect on July 1.

A spokesperson for Governor Glenn Youngkin sent the following statement:

“The governor supports strengthening anti-hazing laws and was honored to sign this important piece of legislation in honor of Adam’s legacy. He thanks the Oakes family for their important work to protect Virginia’s kids.”

A bill aimed to toughen the hazing penalty in Virginia to a felony if it leads to serious bodily injury or death is still in conference with state lawmakers.

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