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Board Of Education Continues Suspension Of Sayreville High School Football Coaches

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.

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.

Board Of Education Continues Suspension Of Sayreville High School Football Coaches

The accused players have also been suspended from school, something the Board of Education was also expected to address.

Pamela Brause represents one of the accused players.

"I believe kids need to be in school," Brause told CBS 2's Christine Sloan. "Juvenile justice is supposed to be a rehabilitative process. You can't have people sitting at home doing nothing and expect they can become productive citizens."

Brause could not talk about the case because all of the accused are juveniles. Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey could not discuss the case either, but in an exclusive interview with CBS 2 he explained how he decides if a case should be moved up to adult court.

"For any case that I could waive a case up to adult court for a juvenile ... I take it very seriously. I have people in the chain of command review the case from top to bottom. I get the file; I review it. I want to know what negotiations there were with defense counsel," Carey said.

The prosecutor said he also looks at the history of the juvenile to see if there is a prior arrest.

"We also take very seriously the wishes of a victim in a case like this," Carey said.

Carey has 30 days from the time the charges were filed to make the decision whether to move the case from juvenile to adult court.

"If you put somebody in jail for a significant amount of time, they're not going to come out a better person," Carey said. "There is a chance we can help Sayreville to heal and to move on from this."

Board Of Education Continues Suspension Of Sayreville High School Football Coaches

"This evening, we took another wrenching step in demonstrating to this great community that the safety and welfare of our students is by far our highest priority," Labbe said Tuesday.

Sayreville has been a town divided since the football season was canceled in the wake of the hazing allegations and the student suspects were charged.

On social media, some are blaming the young alleged victims for speaking up.

"Whenever there is a juvenile case and the media is involved, it adds to the peer pressure put on the kids," Carey said.

Sources told CBS 2 that the district's head coach and his staff spent very little time in the locker room, but some lawmakers believe they should be held responsible for what allegedly took place.

Board Of Education To Decide On Suspension Of Sayreville High School Football Coaches

"There has to be changes," Assemblyman John Wisniewski said. "It's unacceptable that there is a defense that they didn't know. They should have known. Their job was to supervise and be responsible for these young men."

He said the only way for the school's football program to "have any credibility going forward," is to have new leadership "top to bottom."

"They let the community down by allowing this to happen," he said.

But so far, several hundred signatures have been attached to an online petition in support of Coach Najjar, WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported.

Some wrote he is a good man, a role model, a mentor and a man of character. Former players planned to defend him at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.

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