CEDAR GROVE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A long football season is in order for one New Jersey school that just had five of their football coaches suspended.
As CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner reported Tuesday, the Cedar Grove High School Panthers have still been hitting the field, but their coaches have been removed from the gridiron for alleged bullying.
“The guys that got suspended; I mean, I know a few of them. They’re great guys,” said Margaret Pantusa, whose son, Marco, plays for the team. “I think it was very ridiculous, just because I think it wasn’t handled correctly. If you have a problem with the coach, I feel like you go directly to the coach.”
School and district officials refused to release any details about what led to the suspensions. But many students and parents say they had heard about an incident.
“I heard that some of the coaches at Cedar Grove were picking on this one student, I think that he asks too many questions during practice, and they gave him the nickname the “riddler,” and drew some question marks on his jersey,” said former student Joe DeFresco.
Some students said bullying should not come without consequences.
“If you’re bullying a kid, then I think you should be fired,” said student Joseph Bell.
“Oh that’s terrible,” added student Emily Lay. “I feel so bad.”
The five coaches are a mix of volunteers and paid employees, and the suspensions range from one week to an entire season.
Former Rutgers linebacker Jeremy Campbell now coaches privately, and some of his athletes attend Cedar Grove High School. He weighed in on the alleged incidents.
“As a coach, you want to motivate your athletes,” Campbell said.
He said coaches have to be careful when motivating athletes.
“There is a fine line, especially when we’re dealing with the younger athletes,” Campbell said. “We have to remember that no matter what our backgrounds might be as coaches — whether we’re former players or whether we grew up with just a genuine love and interest in the game — there is a line we should not cross when dealing with motivation.”
CBS 2 asked school and district officials repeatedly to go on camera and explain their side of things. They refused.
Supt. Michael Fetherman only described the incident as a “very sensitive issue for the kids and the community.”
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