Seven students from Sayreville War Memorial High School are being charged in an extreme hazing case. Six of the seven students were arrested on Friday, and the seventh juvenile turned himself in to police early Saturday morning. The identities of the accused are being withheld due to the ages of the students. They range from 15 to 17 years of age.
The teenagers are facing several charges, including conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, aggravated criminal sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault, hazing and criminal restraint. The accused teens are currently being held in a detention center pending a court hearing.
In a statement, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey and Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski said, “Allegedly between the dates of Sept. 19 and Sept. 29 at least one student detained the victims unlawfully, while the other teens inappropriately touched the juvenile victims in an intimate fashion. Officials are not releasing details yet but it is presumable that intercourse was not involved. Richard Labbe, Superintendent for the Sayreville High School, cancelled the rest of the football season after allegations had surfaced.
“There were pervasive circumstances of terrorizing and harassment to which other teammates knew about and condoned,” Said Labbe. The board of education “takes this severely troubling issue seriously and puts the safety of the students at the forefront of this matter.”
Sayreville High School’s head football coach, George Najjar has been quiet concerning the hazing case and subsequent charges against the students. He has led the football program at Sayreville for the past 20 years. He was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame earlier this year. He has created a portfolio of victories year after year. Out of the last four years, the Sayreville Bombers have taken home three state sectional titles.
With charges against a number of Najjar’s players, some are questioning whether he should continue working for the school. Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) said, “I think the coach and staff should be replaced,” in a telephone interview Friday night. Najjar and his assistant coaches are facing scrutiny about the level of supervision they provided to the team. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a top Democratic lawmaker questioned on Thursday, “where were the adults in charge when this was happening?” adding, “this should bring on a feeling of outrage here.”
In a move towards the healing process, a group called the Sayreville Coalition of Community Leadership was formed. Their first event will be held on Sunday night regarding teen bullying.
Friday would have been the homecoming game against high school team rival Monroe. The only students standing on the field Friday evening were members of the high school band. “They still have to practice for upcoming events, even if there is no football,” said a staff member. A former Sayreville High School Bomber did not want to talk about the situation when asked by a reporter about the students being charged in the hazing case. A court hearing will be announced, in the meantime the teens may stay locked up or may be released to parents.
Commentary by Paul Sears