What to Know
- Four student athletes at a New Jersey high school have been suspended in the wake of an ongoing hazing probe into the school's football team
- The student suspensions come after the high school's athletic director was placed on administrative leave, multiple coaches were suspended and games were canceled.
- The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into the latest locker room incident in which parents say was captured on cellphone video, but said it cannot confirm or deny any details of the investigation because juvenile records are confidential by nature
Four student athletes at a New Jersey high school have been suspended in the wake of an ongoing hazing probe into the school's football team.
The suspensions at Wall High School came at two separate times, once immediately after reports of bullying and hazing surfaced, and then at least a week or so later. Four members of the football team have been suspended in all so far.
The student suspensions come after the high school's athletic director was placed on administrative leave, multiple coaches were suspended and games were canceled. It also follows multiple heated school board meetings that have taken place since the allegations came to light earlier in November.
At one of the most recent meetings, many angry parents wanted to know why they found about about the allegations from the news and not the school, asking when district officials first found out. Among the people who took to the mic were former students who say hazing has long been part of the school and that they were bullied years ago.
Eric Duchak detailed being dragged across the locker room floor as well as being kicked and hit with towels, pads and helmets.
"I have held that with me for 27 years," Duchak told the school board. The alumnus called the latest allegation of several football players threatening to assault a younger classman with a broomstick part of an ongoing culture.
And so does Marilyn Clayton, a mother of a former student with Down syndrome. She says her son was bullied into a sexual act by members of the football team in 2012.
"This happened to my son, my son, and it was swept under the carpet," Clayton said.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into the latest locker room incident in which parents say was captured on cellphone video. Separate incidents of sexual assault off-campus are also under investigation. The office has said it cannot confirm or deny any details of the investigation because juvenile records are confidential by nature.
"I want to assure the public that multiple assistant prosecutors and detectives are diligently working on this matter right now but we really need your help, anyone with information is urged to contact our office," Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said.
Meanwhile, parents of current students want to know why the district didn't act sooner and many of them are calling for the resignation of those involved.
Wall Township Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tracy Handerhan and other school officials have repeatedly said that they cannot comment because of the ongoing investigation. Handerhan has detailed what the district has done since the allegations emerged.
Some parents say they were angry at the fact that the entire football team is being punished over the allegations surrounding about six players. One admonished the district for cancelling the playoff and Thanksgiving games after a year when students already lost so much due to the pandemic.
Families of other players — who have not been implicated in the hazing incidents — have also hired an attorney to protect their children's reputations. The lawyer said in a letter to the superintendent that the tickle effect of new suspensions perpetuates a feeling of helplessness for those only guilty by association and proximimty.
"If there is a danger to any member of the school body, don't you think law enforcement would have arrested somebody by now?" said attorney Chris Gramiccioni.
The lawyer's letter also warned that suspensions shouldn't be used to send a message to the community or quell public outcry, as the consequences could be too dire.
"When kids are suspended, you cannot unring that bell, they lose out on valuable educational time," he said.
While some parents are seeking to protect their children, others approve of the suspensions.
"I do believe suspension is the only way to handle this because that teaches other kids, 'Oh my goodness, something like this, we better watch it,'" said Nancy Kowalsky, who said her son was bullied years ago at the school, although not by football players.
A total of three coaches for the Wall High School football team have been suspended, sources told NBC New York, including head coach and business teacher Tony Grandinetti. He and two others were placed on administrative leave.
So far, one school board member has resigned, citing the hazing allegations as the reason.