Student Well-Being

N.J. District Reconsiders Future of Football Team in Wake of Hazing Scandal

By Bryan Toporek — October 15, 2014 2 min read
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After details of a horrific hazing scandal began emerging last week, the superintendent of a New Jersey school district is reconsidering the future of the high school’s football team, he told NJ Advance Media on Sunday.

“I will say clearly: Whether we have a football program moving forward is certainly a question in my mind,” said Richard Labbe, the Sayreville School District superintendent, to the paper. “Based upon the severity of the charges, I’m not sure. I have to look at the results of the investigation. I have to await more information from the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office.”

Seven players from the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team were charged this past Friday with an assortment of sex crimes, ranging from aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual contact, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration, among others. All seven have since been suspended, school board attorney Jonathan Busch told the paper.

According to the allegations, a group of senior football players would routinely pin down freshmen in the locker room and sexually assault them. A parent of one of the team’s players told NJ Advance Media that the seniors would insert a finger inside the freshman player’s rectum, and would occasionally force that same finger into the freshman’s mouth afterward.

Labbe announced Monday he was cancelling the remainder of the team’s season. Upon the charging of the seven players Friday evening, Labbe released a statement on the district website which read in part, “As should be evident by now, the Sayreville board of education takes this matter extremely seriously and thus will continue to make the safety and welfare of our students, particularly the victims of these horrendous alleged acts, our highest priority. “

Over the weekend, he told the paper that he was “confident” the alleged hazing wasn’t just limited to this year, which raised his concern about the viability of the football program moving forward.

“I need to make sure the community knows that this is a game and our children have the privilege to play it,” Labbe told the paper. “I’m being fair in saying that whether we have a football program is certainly a question that’s in my mind right now.”

Acting state education commissioner David Hespe told the Associated Press that the allegations have prompted a review of policies regarding hazing and bullying.

“We do see this as an opportunity to provide guidance and to take a fresh look at how school districts have not only been responding to hazing and bullying—hazing is certainly part of bullying—but to see what additional best practices” can be put in place, he said.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.