A New Jersey high school canceled the rest of its football season over claims that upperclassmen sexually violated younger players in a hazing ritual.
The parent of one Sayreville High School player told NJ Advance Media that a senior player would signal the start of the hazing by howling, and other players shut off the locker room lights.
A group of players then would subdue a freshman, lift him to his feet, and a senior player would force a finger into the younger teen’s rectum, reported The Star-Ledger – and sometimes the senior would shove that same finger into the freshman’s mouth.
Police have launched a criminal investigation into the claims, and the school superintendent said the alleged abuse violated the state’s anti-bulling statute.
Superintendent Richard Labbe told the newspaper the hazing “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.”
Sayreville initially forfeited a game last week after police were tipped off Oct. 1 to the alleged abuse.
An assistant coach, Charles Garcia, was arrested in an unrelated case for steroids possession, and he resigned Friday.
The superintendent then decided Monday to cancel all the team’s remaining games – a decision that upset many parents in the football-mad town that was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
“I was at the police station with him when they were questioning (my son),” said parent Madeline Tillet. “They were talking about a butt being grabbed. That’s about it. No one was hurt, no one died. I don’t understand why they’re being punished. I think that the forfeited game was punishment enough.”
The parent said he could not “understand how none of the coaches were aware of it. As a coach, you know what’s going on in your clubhouse. You know what’s going on in the locker room.”
The Bombers varsity team has made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons, including three state championships in the past four years.
Some parents have looked into suing Sayreville High School, which sends many players to Rutgers University, over perceived losses of scholarships and chances to play NCAA Division I football.