According to the New York Times, over 100 residents came to the meeting to offer their support of Najjar. Board President Kevin Ciak said at the meeting that the suspensions were, “consistent with the ongoing investigation.” However, some at the meeting argued that the board did not provide the coaching staff with adequate training in bullying prevention.
The Sayreville War Memorial High School football season was cancelled in September after accusations of hazing made national headlines. NJ Advance Media first reported on the disturbing hazing of freshmen students, who allegedly were held down by upperclassmen, punched or kicked and sexually molested. Seven varsity players have been arrested and charged with various counts of hazing and sexual abuse. Three of the players were charged with aggravated sexual assault. Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey has yet to decide if the students, all juveniles, will be tried as adults.
The case may prove difficult to prosecute, due to conflicting reports of the incident from victims and witnesses. Facing backlash from a furious community looking for someone to blame, some victims have downplayed the severity of their initial accusations. In an interview with the New York Times, several victims (who remain unidentified) retreated from their original statements. One alleged victim downplayed the sexual nature of the attack, instead saying the varsity players were, “horsing around.” From the Times:
“After practice that Monday, Sept. 29, the older students took their fourth victim, who shrugged off the assault. He sheepishly said last week that older players may have grabbed him and prodded his anus with their fingers, but said they did not push him to the floor. He insisted that this was only part of team bonding. “You get your butt grabbed a lot, it wasn’t, like, any big deal,” he said. Later, he explained, “They, like, poke you.””