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NJ HS powerhouse cancels season after investigation into bullying

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Sayreville's high school football team has brought home three of the last four state titles in New Jersey, but after an investigation into widespread bullying at the school, there will be no chance for a fourth title in five years.

According to NJ.com, Superintendent Richard Labbe forfeited the team's game against South Brunswick on Friday, giving the 2-0 team their first loss of the season, and followed that decision up with an announcement on Monday night that he had come to the conclusion of completely cancelling the remainder of the season for the varsity, JV, and freshman programs.

"There was enough evidence to substantiate there were incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and in general accepted." Labbe explained to a hoard of emotional parents.

Later on, Labbe went on to note that the decision to cancel the season was the district's way of providing a unified stance against bullying and hazing.

I'll be the first to say that bullying and hazing both have no place in football, or sports in general. It is unacceptable for players to tolerate and accept that type of behavior.

However, from my understanding, exactly what took place is not yet clear. One thing I do know is that over the past few years bullying has become an umbrella accusation for a number of things beyond the true definition we've all come to understand. Just last year a parent in Texas accused a coach of bullying her child after a 91-0 defeat.

Many of the parents left the meeting visibly angry while talking to reporters.

"It’s bogus. They’re holding the kids accountable and not holding the coaching staff and the teachers accountable. I don’t think what they’re doing is fair. A lot of the students who are innocent, they’re suffering." Curtis Beckham, a parent of a varsity player told media after the meeting.

As many parents pointed out after the meeting, it's not just the players and coaches who are being punished, it's also the cheerleaders and marching band members. Without football games, they no longer have an outlet to perform at.

I understand bullying and hazing are both serious issues, and I think anyone who has worked with kids, or has kids of their own can see that. However, if the investigation was so thorough, and is still ongoing, doesn't it make more sense to wait for some clarity and punish those who were directly involved?

I have no issues with punishing those responsible, from the top down. But there's a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into a football season for all these kids (and coaches), so punishing everyone, regardless of their level of involvement, seems a bit ridiculous to me.

Here's a full updated article as of this morning, with everything NJ.com knows so far.

Thursday Update>> After more information has come to light over the past day, I feel compelled to change my stance on the issue and fully support the Superintendent's decision to cancel the season. I don't think anyone could have possibly foreseen what atrocities have come to light in the past 24 hours.