While an alleged hazing scandal in the high school football program at Sayreville War Memorial High School has shocked many in New Jersey,  anti-bullying advocates say intimidation, bullying and hazing in schools is more prevalent than we think.

The entrance to Sayreville War Memorial High School
The entrance to Sayreville War Memorial High School (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

"Numbers for all of these things are very limited because there is no national method for totaling these things up. Almost all of the data we have is based on self-report," said Dr. Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention. "As much as half of all kids throughout the course of their school and college careers and even within the military and other organizations have experienced hazing within their lifetime,"

It is never one incident that a child is exposed to, but a pattern of negative acts, according to Green. "In more than a decade of taking phone calls from parents whose children have been hurt, I have never once gotten a phone call from a parent who said that something bad happened to their kid yesterday and before than everything was perfect. It's always been months or years," Green said.

It is never the individual characteristics of a child that gets him or her hurt or even that gets a child to hurt others, according to Green. The characteristics of the setting determines whether the children will hurt each other.

"The culture and climate of organizations is really determined by the adults who run those organizations and set them up whether it's principals, teachers, adult leaders of fraternities or coaches. Bullying and hazing are problems created in youth by adults," Green said.

In New Jersey, the main method used to count and track violent incidents in schools is called the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting Survey (EVVRS).

"EVVRS is essentially a fake instrument. It's based completely on self-report. It comes out once a year covering the preceding year and all of those reports indicate that as much as half of all the school districts in New Jersey have had zero to two incidents of violence, vandalism, bullying, harassment and intimidation over the preceding year. Could that possibly be real?" Green said. "If that was anywhere close to real, it would mean that New Jersey was the most peaceful geographic area in the history of humankind. It's ridiculous."

Allegations that members of the football team were subjected to hazing of a lewd and sexual nature are still under investigated by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, according to a report in Sports Illustrated.

Quoting sources, “including one close to the investigation,” a story posted on the magazine’s homepage says prosecutors are “looking into whether upperclassmen on the Sayreville football team digitally penetrated underclassmen on the team.”

Prosecutors have thus far declined to discuss any details of their investigation.

In a recent audio recording of Monday’s meeting at Sayreville War Memorial High School, district officials say they were not aware of the incidents of alleged bullying, intimidation and harassment within the high school football program. The audio recording was obtained by NJ Advance Media of remarks made by Superintendent of Schools Rich Labbe at the contentious, parents-only meeting where he announced the cancellation of the school’s remaining football season.

The recording, taken by someone who was present at the meeting, reveals information about when school district administrators were told about the alleged hazing as well as the district's plans to carry out an internal investigation "and the disconnect between parents and administrators over the district’s anti-bullying policies.”

In the wake of the allegations and the meeting canceling the remainder of the season, Superintendent of Schools Rich Labbe said the entire school community is being treated as a victim. Guidance and crisis counselors as well as social workers and psychologists are available to the school community.

Toniann Antonelli contributed to this report.