Students May Play In Football Game Friday; Extracurricular Ban On Hold
Board makes decision after holding 4-hour hearing with players.
Nine Wayne Hills football players may participate in the team's game Friday against Paramus, after the Board of Education voted unanimously at a standing-room only meeting to hold off on an extracurricular activities ban placed on the players earlier this week.
The Board of Education and Interim superintendent held a 4-hour, closed-door hearing with players and their legal representatives to discuss the charges and the evidence in the case, after a heated, standing-room only public meeting Thursday night that continued into the early morning hours.
The board emerged from the hearing at about 1 a.m. Friday morning and read its decision to a group of some 30 people, including team members and their families, who remained in the crowd. Some cried as the verdict was read and the group quickly dispersed once the meeting was adjourned.
"The evidence presented at the hearing which the board and the superintendent, had not previously had access to, raised substantial concern regarding the nature and extent of the involvement of some of the students in the incident," said Board President Donald Pavlak Jr.
The stay was placed pending a hearing to be held Nov. 29 at the board's office, "so that additional facts and information can be considered," Pavlak said.
The decision came after a contentious meeting in which hundreds of residents, including several dozen members of the Wayne Hills football program, wearing their black and maroon team jerseys, crowded into the municipal complex. A large majority was there to show support for the players, who had been barred from participating in games for the remainder of the season.
Interim Superintendent Michael Roth on Wednesday suspended all nine players, including 18-year-old star receiver Andrew Monaghan, from participating in extracurricular activities until further notice. Roth allowed the players to participate in the team’s 48-0 drumming of Vernon last week.
Roth said that his decision was not focused on the team or the coach, both of which, he said, have a record of excelling in what they do. He said district administrators reviewed all the information presented to them before the decision was made.
No items relating to the incident were included on the meeting agenda.
The players were charged Nov. 8 with aggravated assault after allegedly attacking two Wayne Valley High School students on Urban Club Road on Oct. 29, police previously said.
Police Chief John Reardon said the two Valley students were walking on Urban Club Road when the Hills students drove up in an SUV and perhaps another vehicle, got out, and assaulted the Valley students.
Varsity football coach Chris Olsen said this past week "has been a nightmare."
Olsen, a 27-year Wayne resident and seven-time state champion, said that he was called a "pig" and other names in various e-mails he received. He said his wife was called a "whore."
Olsen said that two of the players charged were not at the incident and that two of the other players witnessed the incident but were not involved in it.
He said his son Kevin was not one of the boys charged and that he did not need the nine players to win the Vernon game last week. Wayne Hills is 9-1 this season. According to maxpreps.com, Olsen boasts a career record of 80-5.
Several residents spoke in support of Olsen and the players.
"I have never met a person more committed to his players," Sue Wilcox said. "He teaches a measure of giving to others."
One resident compared what is happening to the players to the Salem witch hunts that occurred in Massachusettes in the 1600s.
Former board trustee Darren Del Sardo, who is representing one of the players, said that his client is innocent. He said his client passed a polygraph test "with flying colors," proving his client was not present at the incident.
But a 50-year resident argued that he has not heard anyone express remorse over what allegedly occurred.
"Why aren’t I hearing that? I’m hearing, 'you should let us play,' and 'you should give us due process', he said. "I would like to hear, 'I’m sorry'."