The coaches at the New Jersey high school that had its football season canceled amid hazing allegations that led to the arrests of seven players have been suspended, according to NJ.com.
The Sayreville High School coaches were not at school Friday and have been suspended with pay, a source familiar with the decision told the website. The decision comes weeks after the district moved to cancel the season amid a Middlesex County prosecutor’s investigation into alleged hazing at the school, which prosecutors said could be considered sexual assaults that were "pervasive."
Five of the suspended coaches, including head coach George Najjar, are tenured teachers, the source told NJ.com. Several others are substitutes. The Sayreville school board is expected discuss and possibly vote on the suspensions Tuesday at its regularly scheduled meeting.
The seven players who were arrested have also been suspended from school. They face charges ranging from hazing and conspiracy to sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault.
The coaches' suspensions come as more details of the alleged locker room abuses at the school surface. In a New York Times report Sunday, several of the players who either saw the alleged hazing attacks or say they were victims recalled in detail what happened.
The witnesses, who weren’t identified by name, described a boisterous locker room environment that took a dark turn over a 10-day period in September, when all four alleged hazing incidents occurred.
The freshmen who spoke to the Times said that during the attacks, older players would come into the locker room shouting “hootie hoo” before flicking the lights on and off and tripping one of the them over. In one case, two older players held a boy down by his arms while players punched, kicked and groped him, according to the report.
The three victims who spoke to the Times varied slightly on their accounts of the hazing. All three said they were wearing football pants, and accounts of the gropings ranged from poking or grabbing of the buttocks to penetration. Of the three victims, two said the hazing wasn't a big deal -- and that what happened was part of team bonding.
Several other freshmen who witnessed the attacks told the Times that they saw the hazing differently. Some said they rushed to change after practice or avoided showering to make it out of the locker room before the varsity team finished practice.
“They think they’re joking around, but I don’t think it was a joke,” a witness to the first attack told the newspaper. “I said, ‘This is nasty.' ”
Several of the freshmen also told the Times that they have become the targets of backlash on social media and in school from other students upset that the football season was canceled.
The backlash “made me want to shoot myself,” one player told the Times.
The case has put a spotlight on the town, known for its successful football program and for being the hometown of singer Jon Bon Jovi, and the way that school districts handle hazing and bullying allegations.
Other schools have taken similar measures in the wake of the allegations in Sayreville. Last week, Wyandanch High School on Long Island suspended five players in a bullying investigation. That team continued its season.
Over the weekend, an Orange County, New York, school canceled its junior varsity football team's season over bullying allegations.