Charges have been filed against seven juveniles in connection with alleged attacks on four victims, in four separate incidents at Sayreville War Memorial High School, authorities said. Three of the seven are charged with sexual assault.

The incidents, involving local athletes, sparked a controversy prompting the school district to cancel the remainder of the 2014 football season.

Six of the seven suspects were taken into custody late Friday, "on charges of juvenile delinquency arising from the attacks," according to a press release issued by  Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department.

Scoreboard at Sayreville High School
Scoreboard at Sayreville High School (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

The seventh juvenile surrendered to police Saturday, according to an update from authorities.

The juveniles range in age from 15 to 17 years old and were being detained by authorities. A Family Court decision is pending to determine whether the youths will be held at a detention facility while they await a court hearing, or if will be released to the custody of their parents or guardians.

An anti-bullying rally has been scheduled for Sunday night in Kennedy Park. Holly Emory, whose son plays on the football team, said parents have asked those attending not to wear Bombers gear so they don't "pour salt in the wound."

In a statement posted on the Sayreville School District website, schools superintendent Richard Labbe said the district has launched "a holistic harassment intimidation and bullying (HIB) investigation of all athletic and extracurricular programs in order to ensure that we take all steps necessary now and in the future to protect all our students."

The prosecutor's press release said, "The decision on placement of the juvenile defendants was not immediately available. It should be noted that under the law, complaints signed against juveniles are not public records and cannot be released. Their identities are being withheld because of their ages."

Charges against three of the juveniles include: aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims.

In addition, the prosecutor's office reports that the defendants are also being charged with  additional counts including: aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of the remaining victims.

Authorities say the charges stem from incidents that allegedly took place on various dates between Sept. 19 and 29 of this year and involved one or more of the defendants holding the victims against their will, "while other juvenile defendants improperly touched the juvenile victims in a sexual manner."

Police say in one of the attacks, one of the victims was kicked by a defendant.

The juveniles being charged in the attacks will face an appearance before a Superior Court Judge in Family Court. A date for the hearing - which will not be open to the public - has not been set. No additional hearings have been scheduled, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

On Friday evening, as what would have been game time on the planned homecoming night neared, the lights at the school's football stadium stayed off and the field remained empty.

Some parents in the township have complained that the whole team is being punished. The team, the Bombers, has won three sectional titles over four years.

Labbe has stood by his decision and said the time has come for students and others to step forward when bullying occurs. "We will come together as a school district and greater community to harness the strength required to support the young men who may have been victimized and then to begin the healing process for our beloved community," he said.

Sayreville sits next to the Raritan River and just inland from the Raritan Bay, site of devastating flooding from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Football was a constant through the storm's aftermath, and news of the season's cancellation hit students hard.

Residents describe the Sayreville as a hardworking, diverse place geared toward football. They say the borough of about 43,000 people is a great place to raise kids.

"Everything revolves around getting the kids ready to play Bomber football," Cary Melendez, who has been living in Sayreville a few years, said outside her house.

At John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, across the street from the school, Matt Norcross said football is a large part of the town's identity.

"It's hard to get here on Friday nights" because the games generate so much traffic, the South Amboy man said as his 12-year-old stepson participated in football practice on a nearby field.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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