Sayreville (N.J.) Schools Superintendent Richard Labbe said he is considering suspending the high school football program beyond this season pending further information from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which Labbe said has indicated to him that harassment, intimidation and bullying may have taken place before this year in the Bombers’ locker room.
“The question of whether we are going to have a football program going forward is a critical one I am now going to be addressing,” Labbe said on Sunday night, noting he hopes law enforcement allows his district to begin an internal investigation in the coming days.
“I’m hoping to get clearance at some point this week so that we can start interviewing the coaches. I’m going to make this decision based upon sound rationale, which includes very concrete data and information.”
Labbe said he was told by the prosecutor’s office not to speak to the coaches while the investigation was ongoing, although he said he believed the coaches did not know about the hazing.
Labbe said he would not make any decision regarding the football program’s long-term future “rashly or abruptly.” He has already shut down the program at all three levels for the remainder of this season.
Over the weekend, seven Sayreville football players were arrested and charged in connection with the hazing and aggravated sexual assault of four teammates inside the team’s locker room.
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Labbe said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey indicated improper locker room activity, “Was pervasive, meaning it was beyond this year. Is he going to be able to substantiate it? That’s the information he is gathering.”
How much longer or how many years remains to be determined, he said.
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All seven Sayreville players, aged 15 to 17, charged over the weekend have been suspended from school, pending the prosecutor’s .
Three of the players were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the victims, according to Carey.
One of those players and the remaining four teammates were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of the remaining victims, Carey said.
The complaints charge that on various dates between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29 one or more of the players either held the victims against their will, while others improperly touched the victims in a sexual manner. It also is charged that in one instance, one of the victims was kicked during an attack.
NJ Advance Media’s Matt Stanmyre, citing information from the parent of a Sayreville player who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported in graphic detail how upperclassmen allegedly used their fingers to sodomize freshmen teammates.
“I had no idea until I read that one article the magnitude of it, and then obviously based upon the charges that were made by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the severity of those charges, to me, goodness gracious, I thought maybe that report’s not too far off,” Labbe said.
Citing state laws that protect the identities of juvenile defendants, Carey said he could not disclose the names or current locations of the players who have been charged. The players are either being held in a detention facility or have been released to the custody of their parents or guardians pending a hearing. Under state law, complaints signed against juveniles are not public records and cannot be released.
The defendants will be required to appear before a Superior Court Judge in Family Court, but the hearing date has not been determined.
Juvenile hearings are not open to the public. No other court hearings have been scheduled.