N.J. Football Coach Not Reinstated to Teaching Position Following Hazing Scandal
The school board for the Sayreville (N.J.) school district voted Tuesday evening not to reinstate George Najjar, the head coach of Sayreville War Memorial High School football team, as a teacher after the hazing scandal that emerged last month.
According to Greg Tufaro of MyCentralJersey.com, the board unanimously voted to reinstate four other football coaches—top assistant Michael Novak (physical education), assistant Mark Poore (physical education), head freshman coach Ed Mish (science), and assistant freshman coach Tim Ballard (social studies). The board also approved action that prevents Mish and Ballard from receiving their scheduled salary increases in the 2015-16 school year.
The board initially upheld the suspensions for all five coaches last month, and also reduced their coaching stipends at that time.
"Tonight we are moving forward as a school district," Superintendent Richard Labbe said, according to a statement released following the vote, per Tufaro. "The actions taken by the board are the next step in this process. Our investigation is ongoing."
Seven players have been charged with an assortment of sex crimes stemming from the alleged hazing, which took place during a week-and-a-half span beginning in mid-September. The New York Times described the alleged attacks in detail after speaking with two of the alleged victims:
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.
None of the coaches were charged with criminal behavior, which prevented the school board from suspending them without pay, according to Tufaro. All seven of the criminally charged players remain suspended from school.
What's next for Najjar? As Tufaro explains, there's a range of possibilities:
The next step for Najjar could run the gamut from reinstatement to tenure charges.
State law permits a school district to file tenure charges with the New Jersey Department of Education against teachers for conduct unbecoming, inefficiency, incapacity or other just cause. A school board would have to support a superintendent's recommendation that the teacher be terminated before tenure charges could be filed. The cases are assigned by the commissioner of education to an arbitrator who makes the final determination.
The district's investigation into the alleged hazing incidents could wind up determining Najjar's future with the school. If the district can prove that he knew about the alleged hazing incidents and intentionally withheld that information, that would seemingly constitute "conduct unbecoming." According to NJ Advance Media's Vernal Coleman, "It remains unclear whether Najjar was aware of the alleged incidents."
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