The Grade Blog

Friday, Dec 20 2013 10:00 PM

Fraternity alleges father culpable in son's hazing

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Legal documents filed in connection with a lawsuit against Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. over the hazing of a former Cal State Bakersfield student raise questions about how much the student's family knew about physical abuse that he says left him with permanent injuries.

Brent McClanahan II filed the lawsuit against the fraternity in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 2. In it, McClanahan said he was beaten repeatedly with canes, whips and paddles during a weeks-long pledge process.

Attorneys for the fraternity recently filed a motion for a change of venue from Los Angeles County to Kern County. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Feb. 18.

In the meantime, new documents have surfaced that seem to indicate the student's father, Brent McClanahan Sr., was aware of physical hazing and looked the other way.

Kappa Alpha Psi is a predominantly black fraternity founded on the campus of Indiana University in 1910.

CSUB sanctioned its local chapter from 1997 to 2007, and again in 2009. But the chapter was revoked for low membership and denied renewal in 2010 because the fraternity's regional headquarters said it was not an officially established chapter.

The group McClanahan II was attempting to pledge was a "colony," the formation of which is the first step toward establishing a chapter recognized by the fraternity and the host university.

Colonies are overseen by alumni of the fraternity. Those alumni are charged with guiding young people to make sure they learn about the fraternity's history and rituals and abide by its rules, including a strict prohibition against hazing.

McClanahan Sr. is a Kappa Alpha Psi alumnus who has been listed in past local fraternity tax filings as its secretary and treasurer.

Fraternity attorney Michael Osborne said he will argue in court that McClanahan Sr. knew what was happening to his son and fully bought into the hazing culture.

"The alumni are supposed to make sure everyone is behaving themselves," he said in a phone interview Thursday. "Instead, (the elder) Mr. McClanahan was involved the year before in the hazing and abuse of several of the members who then a year later committed the hazing against the son."

Reached by phone Thursday, McClanahan Sr. declined to comment.

In a cross complaint, the fraternity alleges that McClanahan Sr. "became aware that hazing was occurring, and failed to immediately report the same to the international headquarters (of the fraternity)" despite all parties having signed agreements to report suspected hazing at the beginning of the initiation process.

If the hazing had been reported to higher ups, it would have been investigated and, once confirmed, halted immediately, the fraternity said.

In a Bakersfield Police Department report obtained by The Californian, McClanahan II is said to have told police in July 2011 that he'd repeatedly told adults overseeing the pledge process that he had had back surgery and had ongoing lower back problems.

Hazing nevertheless began on March 27, 2011, according to the report.

When asked if he'd ever informed his father of the abuse, McClanahan II responded that "he went to his father and started explaining how he and his line brothers were not able to continue at their peak performance due to what was occurring during the initiation process.

"Brent Sr. told Brent II that he was going to shut it down, however, Brent II talked him out of it, stating it was almost over. Brent Sr. continued to tell Brent II that if anything happened to them, he was going to close up the chapter locally; however, Brent II stated he did not want that to happen and he did not want to quit," according to the report.

In a subsequent interview, McClanahan Sr. told police he had been trying to stamp out a culture of secret hazing for years, and that he had told the dean and assistant dean of pledges that no one should be hitting his son.

Instead, he said, two men had paddled McClanahan II on the sensitive surgical incision in his back at least three times.

McClanahan II, who was 25 years old at the time of the hazing, was taken to the hospital after collapsing at his parents' home in April 2011.

Doctors found multiple bruises, scrapes, scabs and cuts on his body. He was partially paralyzed and had lost bladder control, and underwent back surgery for herniated and ruptured discs, according to the lawsuit and court documents from a related criminal case.

To this day, McClanahan suffers from nerve damage, foot and leg drop, back pain, inability to walk without assistive devices, inability to control his bladder and an inability to engage in sexual activity, according to the lawsuit. He also suffered psychological and emotional trauma that have left him with depression, according to the complaint.

The hazing allegations led to criminal charges against current and former students. Ryan Nichols and Philemon Lamont Norris pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in 2012, but judgment was deferred for 18 months. If the two stay out of trouble and pay the required restitution, the charge will be dismissed.

Deandre Tramaine Horn pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to three years of probation and time served.

The lawsuit names Kappa Alpha Psi; its regional office; the fraternity's Bakersfield Alumni chapter; and fraternity alumni Kencey Agu, Deandre Horn and Ahmad Rashard Mallard.

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