(SAYREVILLE, N.J.) — The real football “heroes” of Sayreville, N.J., are the players who came forward to their parents, says the superintendent who canceled the season over the harassment of younger team members.
“There was one or two courageous kids that stepped up and did the right thing and prevented one less child from being harassed, intimidated and bullied,” Sayreville School District Superintendent Richard Labbe said. “And to me, those are the true heroes of this. And we need more heroes like this.”
In an interview with ABC News, Labbe said he was overwhelmed with “horror” when he first heard what was going on behind closed doors at his district’s high school. And he vowed that the proud football program in his community would be rebuilt — the right way. But Labbe insisted he realizes that the wounds of the last days are still raw, and he certainly recognizes there are pockets of hostility directed toward him and the school board that backed him up during a heated session Tuesday night.
“I understand how the seniors feel not to have that last game, not to walk out on the field for the last time with their mom and dad,” Labbe explained. “But based up on the information I received, the right decision that I knew in my heart was to make the one we made.”
On Monday, Labbe canceled the entire football season for Sayreville War Memorial High School after reports of bullying and physical intimidation, with sexual overtones, were reported to the police and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. The authorities are now investigating.
Before Labbe’s headline-grabbing move, Sayreville football had been known for being among the elite of the Garden State’s scholastic athletics programs. Now, the district has to rebuild.
“Not only are we going to rebuild the image of this school district, the image of this high school, the image of this football team,” Labbe said. “But we are going to extend beyond that. We are going to become a very, very special place and that march toward getting people to take a stance is very important.”
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