N.J. District Suspends Five Football Coaches Due to Hazing Scandal
Football coaches at a N.J. high school have been suspended from their teaching and coaching positions as a result of a hazing scandal that emerged earlier this month, according to multiple reports.
Head coach George Najjar and four other assistants, all of whom are tenured teachers at Sayreville War Memorial High School, are suspended with pay, two sources told NJ Advance Media. The district's board of education is expected to vote on the suspensions Tuesday night in a closed-door session, MyCentralJersey.com's Greg Tufaro reported over the weekend.
According to Tufaro, state law prohibits educators from being suspended without pay unless criminal charges have been filed against them. None of the five suspended coaches and assistants are facing charges at the moment, although seven players were charged with sex crimes a week-and-a-half ago in connection with their alleged roles in the hazing scandal. The charges range from aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual contact, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration.
The New York Times interviewed two of the alleged victims and "multiple witnesses to three attacks" in recent days, finding that conflicting accounts of what happened could complicate the investigation into the alleged hazing incidents. The paper described the alleged attacks in detail:
All told, four players from the freshman team were set upon between Sept. 19 and 29, often pushed to the locker room floor by a handful of varsity players, when coaches were not around. The older players punched and sometimes kicked the younger ones, pinned them and, at the very least, grabbed their buttocks, the freshmen said. Yet the two victims who spoke to The Times, including one who said he was penetrated from behind with a finger, said they were wearing pants and did not consider what happened to be that serious. A witness to a third attack said the victim was also wearing football pants. The Times did not talk to anyone who saw the fourth attack.
According to the Times, the first alleged victim initially told the police "that no one penetrated him from behind." However, the police didn't believe the teenager, saying, "You're lying. We know the story, and you're lying," he told the paper.
Pennsylvania State University has reportedly pulled a scholarship offer from Sayreville's star player, senior running back/defensive back Myles Hartsfield, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. It's unclear whether Hartsfield is one of the seven players charged in relation to the hazing scandal—police have not released the names of those charged since they're all minors—although police were reportedly seen at his house moments before Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department announced the charges, per NJ Advance Media.
Last week, Sayreville superintendent Richard Labbe told NJ Advance Media that he's reconsidering the future of the football program in the wake of the hazing scandal. "I will say clearly: Whether we have a football program moving forward is certainly a question in my mind," he said.
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