Sayreville Makes Headlines, Sparks Debates Over Hazing

The small Middlesex County town of Sayreville, once united by varsity sports, continues to make unwanted headlines after seven members of the high school football team were charged with sexually assaulting four fellow teammates.

In a front-page story, The New York Times reported that the allegations have divided the small town into two—those in support of the victims and their families and those more in support of the football-way-of-life.

“It’s a town that lives on Friday night lights; it was something for everyone to enjoy,” David McGill, town councilman, told The New York Times.

Football has been a large part of the Sayreville life, with the Bombers winning three of the last four sectional championships. Every year, students from the Sayreville football program are scooped up by college recruiters to play for teams like Rutgers University. The high school has become “an established stop for college recruiters” who had often overlooked public schools for local private schools, according to yet another The New York Times story.

The charges pending against the students, ranging in age from 15 to 17 years old, come just over one week after the school’s football season was abruptly canceled. School officials became aware of the hazing allegations via an anonymous tip made to the Sayreville police, and immediately reported it to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, who took over the investigation from there.

Parents attended school board meetings in droves over the past 10 days to argue against the canceling of the the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity football seasons, after the allegations came to light. Those who oppose the cancellation of the season say it is unfair that the majority of players are being punished for the actions of a few.

One parent, who identified herself as the mother of the football team captain in a video by, Madeline Thillet, said, “no one was hurt, no one died—I don’t understand why they’re being punished.” reports that legal experts say the Sayreville school board could potentially face tens of thousands of dollars in civil claims from parents angry over the impact of the canceled season. Superintendent Richard Labbe has said the allegations could prevent future seasons as well.

For the players, this means their chance at impressing college recruiters is null and void.

The allegations could affect high school running back Myles Hartsfield, who recently received a verbal offer to play for Penn State, according to While the contract is reportedly still on the table, the recruiters are no doubt keeping a close eye on the situation.

News sources have also reported that the allegations of sexual misconduct, are not as unique as some would think. A review by Bloomberg News counted over a dozen incidents of high school boys being sodomized with foreign objects by their teammates in 2013 alone.

The allegations have sparked various questions: What should the role of football be? Are the schools doing enough to keep their students safe?

A CNN Opinion article declared that the abuse—occurring between September 19 and September 29—went “far beyond hazing” and calls on the school board to fire the entire football coaching staff, cancel the next season and find the truth, “the whole truth.”

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  1. For the victims

    One comment was that everyone overreacted to the incidents and it was just a locker room prank…..sodomy, hazing, locker room abuse occurring over a period of time is not hazing, not a prank….it is criminal and intentional, regardless of how the courts interpret the depositions of high paid influential attorneys….what about the victims and victim’s rights? what about other incidents that are downplayed?? it seems reputation of the team, popularity of football, and college recruitments was the focus in the verdict…..this is not justice at all.