Sayreville cancels remainder of 2014 football season
The Sayreville School District has canceled the remainder of its high school football team's 2014 season following allegations of harassment, intimidation and bullying within the program, the superintendent of schools announced during a meeting Monday night.
Sayreville Superintendent Richard Labbe spoke out during the meeting, saying Sayreville would start "holding our students responsible for doing the right thing and reporting these kinds of behaviors," according to a report by MyCentralJersey.com.
“We can set the standard right now for all kids for all school districts in Middlesex County, in the state and in the nation that we are not going to stand around and allow kids to do this to one another,” Labbe said, according to the article. “We are going to start holding our students responsible for doing the right thing and reporting these kinds of behaviors. I believe with every fiber of my body that the only way we are going to stop bullying is if we get the kids to go to an adult or to the authorities."
On Friday, Labbe announced his decision to cancel the team's scheduled game with South Brunswick because of "significant allegations" of misconduct that are under investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. Authorities will not release details until their findings are complete.
Following Monday night's meeting, Labbe said that based on the initial findings by police and the prosecutor's office, "there was enough evidence to substantiate there were incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and in general accepted," according to NJ.com.
Labbe on Monday could not offer details of the criminal investigation, but said the alleged misconduct may have begun "outside of this year." He could not share whether or not any allegations were of a sexual nature, and he noted the district has not yet learned the names of the alleged perpetrators.
NJ.com reports that parents left the meeting "emotional and angry" without speaking to the media. The superintendent told parents that the school district will have guidance counselors and psychologists on stand-by to work with any students who were either victims of the alleged harassment or were impacted in any way by the situation.
"What we have to continue to do is talk about it, and also unfortunately to make sure that there are consequences for this kind of behavior, that maybe kids will think twice," said Dr. Steven Tobias, child psychologist and director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. "We do need to monitor, and as much as we can, make sure these things aren't going on behind our back."
Curtis Beckham, father of a sophomore on the Bombers varsity football team, said he can neither agree or disagree with the district's decision to scratch the rest of the season, given a lack of specifics as to exactly what transpired within the football program.
"Either way, it's sad," Beckham said after the meeting. "The students can't play. It's a ding on the entire community."
Tobias said bullying and intimidation remain part of human nature, especially among kids in a social setting like a locker room.
"People like to have control over other people," he said. "People do make other people feel bad so that they can feel good about themselves."
Steve Timko, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, told NJ.com the group is following the case but is not conducting its own investigation.
“As it currently stands, this matter is one for the school district and law enforcement agencies to address," Timko told NJ.com.
Labbe said Friday that the misconduct leading to the cancellation was entirely separate from another issue challenging the program: the arrest last week of the team's defensive coach, Charles Garcia, for possession of steroids. Garcia's arrest has prompted a call by state Sen. Richard Codey for all members of the school's football team to undergo drug testing.
Townsquare Media's Dan Alexander, Dino Flammia, and Joe Cutter contributed to this report.