‘Racism rumor,’ cited by NBC in Sayreville hazing case, is disputed
The sexual hazing case that has already engendered such raw emotions in Sayreville, is now the subject of what an NBC News report is calling "the racism rumor."
The rumor —that all seven high school football players charged in the case are black and all the victims are white — is incorrect according to law enforcement sources contacted by New Jersey 101.5 Thursday. But social media has apparently helped it spread through Sayreville War Memorial High School, the wider community and into the NBC report, which attributes it to "several members of the football team."
A complicating factor is the confidentiality required of law enforcement agencies dealing with juvenile suspects.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey would not comment on the ethnicity of the suspects but said: "Race was not a factor in the commencement of the investigation. Likewise, it was not a factor in the decision to bring charges against the seven juveniles."
Also dismissing race as a factor in the hazing scandal in the investigation is Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville, who is quoted by SportsNet New York as saying: “We don’t have those problems in our community. I don’t want to believe that that is what motivated this.”
The Rev. Reginald Jackson, former executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey and a leading voice of the African-American community in the Garden State, said he does have some concerns.
"I think it’s important for law enforcement to be very clear, but also very consistent with, they’re taking the same procedure, the same process if these students were not African-Americans," Jackson said.
Jackson wants law enforcement and the school system to figure out, collaboratively, the best way to handle these new allegations.
"Both of them will conduct things in such a way," Jackson said he hopes, "that even if all of them (the students) are African-American, this will not become an issue of race. There’s no right way to do wrong, so let’s just do what’s right, and where the chips fall, they fall."
The NBC story notes that the non-white segment of Sayreville's population has grown from less than three percent to more than 30 percent since the early 1980's and quotes several residents and former graduates of the high school who describe personal experiences with racial abuse and discrimination in the school system.
It also quotes an emailed statement from a white 2012 graduate, Rachel Hawkins, saying the hazing case showed a reflex by school officials and others in the community to "pin the tail on the black donkey."
The investigation, which has resulted in cancellation of Sayreville's 2015 football season, still awaits a decision by Carey's office on whether any of the seven minors charged in the case should be treated by the criminal justice system as adults.