Charges have been filed against “a number” of New Jersey high school students stemming from an investigation into alleged hazing, authorities said.
The Wall Township High School students were charged with hazing, attempted criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, false imprisonment, and harassment, according to Monmouth County’s acting prosecutor Lori Linskey, who announced on Monday that juvenile complaints were filed in the case.
The incidents, some of which were captured on cellphone video, are said to have occurred in the football team’s locker room during September and October.
A second investigation unrelated to the hazing in the locker room resulted in additional charges of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault against one juvenile. That alleged incident occurred outside of school, Linskey said in a press release.
Further details, including exactly how many students are involved, were not released because the case involves minors.
Attorney Christopher Adams, who represents one of the juveniles, denied there was anything sexual about the incidents.
“The prosecutor’s office release of facts related to juvenile charges is unprecedented and grossly irresponsible,” Adams said in an emailed statement.
“There is absolutely nothing sexual about anything that happened in the videos or in the locker room. This was wrestling and horsing around by 15, 16 and 17 year old boys — all dressed — before football practice in front of the coaches. The coaches witnessed this behavior and saw it for what it was — sophomoric, not sexual. Adding a baseless sex charge is not only unsupported by the facts, but nothing more than playing politics and pandering to the media.”
He said in a phone call on Tuesday that he is seeking to have the sex charges against his client dismissed.
“Deal with it for what it is. If you wanna call this harassment, we can have a rational discussion over that. I don’t even think this amounts to hazing … these are high school boys screwing around,” he said.
The prosecutor’s office began investigating in November after it became aware of allegations of hazing at the school as well as unrelated allegations of a sexual assault that occurred off-campus.
Linskey said in Monday’s press release that hazing has no place in the school.
“It is imperative that victims of hazing, harassment, intimidation, and bullying know that such conduct is not a ‘rite of passage’ and should not be endured without consequence in order to gain acceptance in social, club, sport, or academic settings,” she said.
“We are hopeful that the lessons gleaned from this case foster a renewed focus on actively teaching juveniles in all of our schools what conduct crosses the line of acceptability, and what students must do if they are a bystander or victim of hazing, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”
Police and the Wall Township High School, located about 60 miles from New York City, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The charges follow the suspension of four students late last year, according to NBC New York. School administrators handed down the suspensions immediately after reports surfaced of alleged hazing, and then again about a week later.
The high school’s athletic director was also placed on administrative leave, multiple coaches were suspended and games were canceled, according to the news station.