A New Jersey high school football season has been terminated after widespread bullying and hazing allegations.
Superintendent Richard Labbe canceled the season after an investigation by the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office found that players “knew, tolerated and generally accepted incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying.”
Younger players were routinely taunted by older students, often with “sexual overtones,” ABC News reported.
"They would live in fear of seniors and juniors," an official told ABC News. "They would race to the locker room to get changed and get out before the older kids got there."
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The Sayreville Board of Education voted unanimously to uphold the superintendent’s decision to cancel the season Tuesday night during a meeting in Sayreville War Memorial High School’s cafeteria. The school will forfeit its remaining six games.
“This is America!” shouted another irate parent. “What happened to innocent until proven guilty?”
When the decision was announced, dozens of students in letterman jackets immediately stormed out of the meeting, went to the football field and hopped the fence.
When someone turned on the lights they had piled onto a spot where the Sayreville Bombers have won three state championships in the last four years.
"There are maybe 80 kids in the program,” the official said. “There's some circling the wagons. Some are angry about the program being shut down and the loss of scholarships. It's a little surprising to think they're more concerned about that than the welfare. But that's happening."
“Nobody was hurt. Nobody died. I don’t think the punishment fits the crime,” said Madeline Thillet, mother of senior and captain Dylan Thillet.
A parent reported bullying to the police last week.
"It was a parent of a younger kid being taunted, threatened, bullied," the official explained.
The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case as the investigation is ongoing.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / matthewreid, New York Daily News / Wayne Coffey