7 Wayne Hills Players Sentenced to Probation
Five-month long case brought sweeping changes to the district.
Seven of the nine Wayne Hills High School football players who were charged with aggravated assault last fall were sentenced to probation late last month, according to a report on NorthJersey.com.
The report states that each of the seven players pleaded guilty to simple assault in order to be allowed to enter a juvenile probation program.
The nine players were charged with aggravated assault after police said they attacked two Wayne Valley High School students after a party on Urban Club Road on Oct. 29.
The incident ignited a firestorm of controversy. Residents in town were often divided on how they thought coach Chris Olsen and district officials should have handled the situation.
District Superintendent Ray Gonzalez declined to comment on the sentences.
"As a matter of policy, Wayne Public Schools does not comment on media reports about its students," Gonzalez said. "The district's focus is on students' education."
Karen Marron and Janine Del Vecchio, co-presidents of the Wayne Coucnil of Parent Teacher Organizations, also declined to comment.
Board of Education President Donald Pavlak Jr. could not be reached for comment.
The incident prompted district administrators to adopt a new policy forcing Olsen to choose between coaching the team and remaining the school’s athletic director.
The players were allowed to participate in the team’s first-round state playoff game against Vernon. Hills won the game 48-0.
Then-interim Superintendent Michael Roth ruled Nov. 16 that the players could not participate in the team’s second playoff game, or any other extra-curricular activities, but the Board of Education placed a stay on the ban the next day after dozens of players and hundreds of residents expressed their support for the players and Olsen at a board meeting. Roth and the board held a 4-hour, closed-door hearing with players and their legal representatives after the meeting to discuss the charges and the evidence in the case.
The stay was placed pending a hearing to be held later that month at the board's office, "so that additional facts and information can be considered," said board President Donald Pavlak Jr.
The board upheld Roth’s extra-curricular ban and lifted the stay on Nov. 25.
Board trustee Robert Ceberio said in November that the incident had impacted the day-to-day operations in the district, especially at Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley High Schools. Ceberio said the incident on Oct. 29 left a “black mark” on Wayne.
"This is not characteristic of the majority of our 8,700 students who truly reflect the good of our district and community. The Wayne Board of Education believes that violence is unacceptable related to our school, connected to extracurricular activities or in our community," Ceberio said.
An administrative law judge and the state’s acting commissioner of education upheld the suspensions. The players, all starters, did not play in the team’s state sectional title game. Hills defeated Old Tappan 15-12, giving the Patriots their second consecutive group state championship and Olsen his eighth in the previous 10 years. Hills came back to win the game in the final three minutes.
“What can I say about these kids,” Olsen said on the field after the game. “At halftime they said, ‘Coach we’re going to win this game’.”
Parents and residents criticized Olsen for choosing not to suspend the players for the team’s first two state playoff games; Olsen is also the school’s athletic director.
The board approved a new policy in January prohibiting administrators and supervisors from coaching sports teams and acting as advisors of any district athletic, co-curricular, or extra-curricular program.
Dozens of residents and football players packed a recent board meeting in February to ask officials to amend or reverse the policy. No one on the board made a motion to take such action.
Andrew Monaghan, the only adult at the time the charges were filed, agreed to enter Pre-Trial Intervention, a probationary-like program, NorthJerey.com reported last month.
A new athletic code of conduct gives coaches the power to suspend athletes who violate the code both on and off school grounds.
Student athletes in either high school and each middle school will have to sign the code of conduct if they want to play sports. Parents of students younger than 18 must also sign it.
“This new code is an extremely positive step forward for the district,” Superintendent Ray Gonzalez said in a statement “Now, students, coaches, and parents alike will know exactly what is considered acceptable.”
The policy states that team coaches are charged with establishing discipline and basic rules for their teams. Coaches also have the right to suspend athletes for “infractions of these rules” and the code.