Current news in New Jersey concerns the hazing which has allegedly occurred at the Sayreville High School football team locker room. The incident has led to criminal, and will lead to civil law fallout.
Accusations that seven High School football players sexually assaulted younger teammates has already led to criminal charges being filed. The most serious charge of aggregated sexual assault requires proof of sexual penetration of a person less than16 years old. There are also lesser included counts. These are all very serious criminal allegations.
Because the alleged perpetuators are all minors, their names have not been released to the public but at least one player, Myles Hartfield, had a scholarship offer to play at Penn State rescinded by the University. New Jersey has an anti-hazing law but not a reporting law. Legislation is being introduced in New Jersey to require that teachers, school administrators and athletic coaches, among other professionals, will be legally required to report child abuse in the State. New Jersey is one of only two states that does not have such a law on the books at present.
“It is a shortcoming in our law that was brought to light by the recent child abuse case in Sayerville and domestic abuse case in the NFL” said Senator Ray Lesniak in an interview with New Jersey Advice Media on October 19, 2014.
Four coaches from Sayreville have been suspended (with pay) from their jobs as teachers and coaches pending further investigation.
More fallout will be the likelihood of civil suits against the school district by the freshmen victims and their families. The basis of the school district liability will probably be based on theories of negligent hiring, training and failure to supervise, as well as negligent inflection of emotional distress and sexual harassment under the New Jersey law against discrimination, according to the New Jersey Law Journal article by Mary Pat Gallagher in Vol 218 No 3 dated October 20, 2014.
I would not be surprised by lawsuits being also brought against the individual coaches and administration which will lead to wholesale changes in that school district.
Plaintiff’s successfully brokered large settlements with Penn State over the Sandusky incidents which were based on many a course of action theories enumerated above, so we could expect the same results in Sayreville.
Negative fallout still rests on the reputation of Sayreville and its football program. After things are made right as possible, with any guilty individuals fairly prosecuted, victims compensated, and after a wholesale staff housecleaning, Sayreville will have to have better safeguards in place before they can again be able to compete on the football field. This was a hard lesson and warning to all other school programs in New Jersey and elsewhere to actively keep hazing out of football and other school run sports and programs. The new legislation that requires professionals to report suspected child abuse is long overdue, and should be passed by the legislature as soon as practical.
There is no room for hazing or any type of bullying regarding schools in New Jersey, and we have to have the tools in place to keep it that way. -JDG