SAYREVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Board of Education has continued the suspensions of the Sayreville War Memorial High School football coach and his staff, amid a hazing scandal at the school.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, sources said the varsity team’s hall of fame coach and his staff were suspended after seven Sayreville players were charged with allegedly sexually assaulting four younger teammates during hazing rituals in the school locker room.READ MORE: Gov. Lamont: Connecticut Man Who Tested Positive For Omicron Variant Has Mild Symptoms, Resting At Home
Board members on Tuesday voted unanimously to confirm, and thus continue, the suspensions of the five coaches.
Members of the Sayreville High School community attended a confrontational meeting about the coaches’ suspensions Tuesday night, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“We got destroyed by a football incident that isn’t proven yet, but people got divided. But people that used to talk and be friends don’t talk anymore. That’s what happened to this town,” Sayreville resident Sam Porcaro said.
Those in attendance at the meeting largely voiced their support for Coach George Najjar, Young reported.
“I know he was not there and you can’t hold him responsible for something he didn’t know and didn’t see,” Tony Vallillo said.
“I am not going to use my time to speak about Coach Najjar,” added varsity defense back coach John Bell. “His character enough speaks for itself.”
Among the supporters is a feeling of dread; a suspicion that this is bigger than a canceled season—a stain on the reputation of the good as well as the bad, CBS 2 reported.
“Coach Najjar was and is one of the greatest influences of my life; he teaches the two words: commitment and character,” varsity football player Vincent Fultz said.
Multiple teenage football players also spoke in Najjar’s defense.
“We know he would never have, for a second, tolerated any form of hazing,” said player Sean Macintosh.
So did a former NFL player and a cheerleader.
“I can’t imagine cheering for anyone else but Najjar,” the cheerleader said.
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the crowd then accused Sayreville School Supt. Richard Labbe of trying to make a name for himself with the scandal, with one person claiming he heard a conversation behind closed doors.
“You were celebrating the fact that you buried this football program,” said former player Robert Berardi. “You said, ‘We got them. They’re all finished. They’re done.’ I was disgusted to hear that.”
Labbe said, “The safety and welfare of our students is by far our highest priority,” and had no comment about the accusations.
Board members said the suspensions will continue while the criminal investigation is going on, and they will also start an inquiry of their own.