(Warning: graphic details)
The hazing would begin with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off. In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth. (source)
There have been no comments from the coach or coaching staff about the details, but sources claim that this may have been going on for up to a year. A year! At least three football players have come forward with the accusations of sexual assault, claiming that it happened almost every day. You can’t possibly ask me to believe that something like this was going on and none of the staff and most of the team did not know anything about it. This wasn’t happening in an abandoned warehouse somewhere; it happened loudly (“howling”) and with lights going on and off in the locker room of the high school, a place that is not normally deserted, especially during football season.
“The whole thing is tearing this town apart,” said the parent of a senior football player…“We are being painted as barbarians and Neanderthals. We don’t think this is more important than football. But why can’t we wait for the facts to emerge and the investigation to be completed? Nobody is saying that something terrible may not have happened, but look at the collateral damage. Our kids are collateral damage.” (source)
Now, I agree that automatically casting blame on every member of the team is not fair or right, but suspending the season is not saying “all students are guilty.” What it is saying is “There is enough evidence against the culture of the football program and the staff in charge to warrant suspension of the program until the investigation is complete.” You want to blame someone for the “collateral damage” of your kids? Look at the program, the culture, and the people who were in charge and make them answer for what is happening.
High School Football is a Privilege, Not a Right
More than a hundred Sayreville residents have tried to get the school board the change its mind. Parents and players alike are frustrated and angry about the season being cancelled. After all, Sayreville High School has won the state championship three out of the last four years! They’re a powerhouse that should not be stifled! Parents have even gone so far as to hire lawyers.
Look, I understand that the players who had nothing to do with this would be upset to lose their season. Football is fun; it’s almost cult-like in some areas of the country. Maybe, for a few, college scholarships are hanging in the balance. Naturally people will not be happy that it’s shut down for the season. But high school football is a school-run extracurricular program. It is not a guaranteed right. Those kids are not on a contract. The law cannot force the school to have a football program. It’s within the jurisdiction of the superintendent and the school board, and they have made the decision they believe to be in the best interests of the students and their safety. Superintendent Labbe has said the time has come for students and others to step forward when bullying is occurring. Support the decision, hate it, get mad about it…but don’t waste your money suing over it. If this hazing did happen almost daily, and it happened on school property, and it involved 5 or more students and victims, there is almost no chance that others did not know this was happening, yet no one reported it. Direct your outrage at fixing the problem, and stop with the self-righteous indignation at the plight of your poor sons who can’t play football this year.
Sexual assault is not okay. Ever! Nobody yet knows for sure the extent to which the hazing went or confirmed the number of victims and perpetrators. If you had a son in that program, why on earth would you want him in that locker room without knowing if he will be the next victim or not? Why would you want to risk his safety, risk him being sexually assaulted…just so he can play football?
Sayreville resident Maureen Jenkins has set up a Facebook page Support anti bullying and support the Victims to organize a peaceful vigil for Sunday at 6 pm, across from Sayreville High School. The purpose is to show support for the victims, their families, and the decision of the school board, as well as to support anti-bullying. Jenkins has stated that until criminal charges are filed, she will continue to refer to the alleged hazing as “bullying in the worst form.”