PARLIN, N.J. -- A central New Jersey town is reeling after its high school football team, which has won three sectional titles over four years, had its season cut short by allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment among players.
Sayreville school officials made the announcement Monday night during a meeting with the players' parents. The district already had canceled and forfeited a game that was scheduled last week between Sayreville War Memorial and South Brunswick and announced that the Middlesex County prosecutor's office was investigating the allegations.
"There was enough evidence that there were incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level and at a level at which the players knew, tolerated and generally accepted," Superintendent Richard Labbe told reporters Monday night. "Based upon what has been substantiated to have occurred, we have canceled the remainder of the football season.
"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. 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."
Labbe said he could not discuss the investigation, and the prosecutor's office has declined to release details. No charges have been filed, but Labbe said Prosecutor Andrew Carey told him there is credible evidence to back up the allegations of bullying and harassment within the program.
Kishan Patel, a 17-year-old senior, said outside of the school Tuesday that a lot of students expressed support for the football players during classes.
"It's all people were talking about all day. ... Everybody's got the football players' backs," Patel said.
Corinne Kalev, whose daughter attends the middle school adjacent to high school, said that football is a big part of fall for the town.
"I think the parents might be more upset than the kids, because this might be these kids' future," Kalev said. "Some of them are really good players and it seems like because of a couple of kids, the whole team is being punished."
Also last week, an assistant football coach at the high school resigned amid allegations that he possessed steroids. Labbe said at the time that the allegations against the former defensive coordinator were the focus of a separate investigation and were not related to the cancellation of last week's game.