WAYNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey school district has pulled nine of its players, each charged with aggravated assault, off the football field right before the school’s big game.
But some students say the punishment goes too far, reports CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano.
“Football is life at Hills, life. Everything revolves around football, so that’s a pretty big hit to the team,” Wayne Valley High School graduate Brandon DiCenso said.
Under the glow of Friday night lights, Wayne Hills will compete in a big playoff game against Paramus without nine of its players, a reversal of a decision made by the district that originally allowed the players to take the field last week.
Some students are crying foul.
“I think whatever happened was wrong, but whatever happens out of school should stay out of school,” student Jelena Rovenain said. “I think they should finish the season off.”
The nine players were charged last month, including star wide receiver Andrew Monaghan. Police said Monaghan and the other eight, who are not being named because they are under the age 18, assaulted two teens after a party. One victim was knocked unconscious.
Initially, the district said the students couldn’t be punished for something done outside school and let them play last week. However, it has suddenly changed course.
The Superintendent Michael Roth released the following statement:
“I have determined that the students charged by the police may not participate in any extracurricular activity, including sports, from this day to a time to be determined based on facts, information, or legal decisions. Students and their families have all rights provided by law related to this decision.”
Roth did not return Mercogliano’s calls to find out why the decision changed. A graduate of the rival high school where the victims are students said the district made the right call.
“One hundred percent, 100 percent the right move,” DiCenso said.
On Thursday night, members of the community showed up at a regularly scheduled school board meeting and let their feelings be known, reports CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Wayne Hills coach Chris Olsen said he and his family have received insults and threats over the arrested players playing last week.
“No one in this room condones fighting or any type of violence. I think that’s a given,” Olsen said. “This week is a nightmare. My wife and my family have been called everything in the book. ‘You’re a disgrace. You’re a pig.'”
The community is decidedly divided.
“What’s on trial here is the whole town being separated into two. And I’m not hearing any remorse. Jeez, I’m sorry we got into a fight,” resident Mark Sabiano said.
“You’re not hurting nine young men here. You’re hurting a whole community,” resident Chris Connolly said.
After listening to residents’ input, the school board went into a closed hearing to possibly decide if they will reverse the district’s decision and allow the accused members to play.
Some players were defended by their attorneys.
“My client wasn’t there, he’s innocent. He was charged wrongfully,” Darren Del Sardo said.
The school board’s decision could make or break Wayne Hills postseason.
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