The parents of Bea Castro, a 19-year-old Cal State, Fulletron student who died from acute ethanol intoxication in March of 2018 during a hazing incident, are suing both the University and the Chi Sigma Phi sorority. The charges in the lawsuit are wrongful death and negligence.
The suit claims that Castro died because of hazing during an initiation to the sorority. The suit also claims that some of the drinking was directly on campus, showing CSU Fullerton’s possible negligence in the case.
The Castro lawsuit is leading some, including anti-hazing advocates, to create a tougher version of SB 1454, commonly known as Matt’s Law.
SB 1454, written by former state Senator Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), was passed and signed into law in 2006 by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. SB 1454 made hazing a felony in California, allowed non-students to be charged for hazing, and allowed fraternities and sororities to be charged despite not being affiliated with the school.
The law itself stemmed from the hazing related death of CSU Chico student Matt Carrington in 2005. Carrington suffered a seizure and heart failure after a water intoxication hazing practice caused by members of the Chi Tau fraternity. After trial that made national headlines, three of the four members were charged with felonies in late 2005. The seemingly light sentences caused a furor and caused Senator Torlakson to write the bill.
Much of Castro’s lawsuit, in particular the charges directly against the sorority, come directly from Matt’s Law.
However, some are saying that Castro’s case is not going far enough. Anti-hazing advocate Connie Matthews, who led protests during the Carrington-Chico trial in 2005 and helped bring the case to national attention, has plans to do the same during Castro’s trial.
“Laws against hazing don’t go far enough,” said Matthews. “Hazing causes death caused by group pressure and demeans and hurts so many more a year. There’s several a year (and according to The Economist, that rate is going up), and while it may not be like drunk driving or tobacco on total number of deaths, it is so much more preventable. And young adults get off scot-free or nearly scot-free for literally bullying kids to death. It has to end.”
Matthews has also said that there is already underway a letter-writing campaign to all state assemblymembers and senators calling for a stronger bill.
Lawyers for CSU Fullerton are currently looking into the Castro suit.
Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at email@example.com.