The nine Wayne Hills High School football players banned from participating in the team’s sectional championship game this Saturday are suing the Board of Education and Interim Superintendent Michael Roth.
The players, including star wide receiver Andrew Monaghan, 18, allegedly attacked two Wayne Valley High School students after a party on Urban Club Road Oct. 29. All nine have been charged with aggravated assault.
Woodland Park-based attorney Ron Ricci filed the suit in Superior Court Tuesday morning on behalf of the players.
Ricci is seeking an injunction on the ban barring the players from participating in extracurricular activities, claiming their right to due process was violated.
Ricci contends that the board did not provide the players ample opportunity to challenge the suspensions when it upheld a Nov. 16 ruling by Roth, which banned the players from participating in extracurricular activities.
According to the suit, the board originally told the players that no witnesses would be allowed to testify in a closed-door hearing Nov. 17, but then allowed two witnesses to testify. As a result, the plaintiffs did not bring all of their witnesses to the hearing, the suit states.
The Board of Education placed a stay on the players participating in extracurricular activities pending another hearing Nov. 29. But the board lifted the stay Nov. 25 after another closed-door hearing took place. No testimony was allowed at that meeting.
“You have to have an opportunity to be heard on why you’re being suspended,” Ricci said.
The complaint states that barring the nine players, eight of whom are minors and their full names not included in the suit, from participating in extracurricular activities will “result in irreparable harm to the students if not stayed.”
Ricci is also concerned that the students’ identities will be revealed if they are not allowed to play on Saturday.
Revealing the identities of the eight minor students, Ricci states in the complaint, “will undermine the whole intent behind our State’s public policy about the way to handle juveniles accused of matters that would be considered crimes if they were adults, and the juveniles will suffer irreparable harm.”
Ricci also argues that not allowing the students to participate in “the most important game of their careers as athletes” may affect their admittance into college and their ability to obtain scholarships and play football at the collegiate level.
Ricci contends that the suspensions are illegal and that the board voted to suspend the students due to “political and public pressure.”
The complaint also states that neither the board nor Roth provided the students with any explanation regarding their decision to suspend the players.
The board has “no written policy on taking action against students for off-campus, non-school-related behavior” and that there is “no student handbook or regulation which would give notice to the students as to prohibited conduct nor sanctions that would be imposed," according to the suit.
Northjersey.com reported Tuesday that Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan is scheduled to hold a preliminary hearing in the matter at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday in Paterson.
Roth declined comment Tuesday.
Ricci filed a petition for emergent relief with Christopher Cref, acting commissioner of the state’s Department of Education Monday. The attorney is asking for a hearing to determine if a stay can be placed on the decision, arguing that the board's actions violated the state’s administrative code.
“We have two different avenues we’re going in because we want to make sure one of them gets heard before Saturday,” Ricci said. “There are two different legal issues: one is a violation of administrative code, the other is a violation of due process.”
Board President Donald Pavlak Jr. said he was not aware that the petition was filed. Pavlak declined further comment.