Suspended Wayne Hills Football Players Won't Play in State Sectional Title Game
Acting Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf upholds administrative law judge's recommendation.
Christopher Cerf, the state’s acting Commissioner of Education, upheld a recommendation from Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass, who heard arguments for the players’ case for emergent relief Thursday. The players sought relief from a ban imposed on them by the Board of Education Nov. 25.
Although the players will not be allowed to play in the game, attorney Darren Del Sardo, who represents one of the players, said that a lawsuit against the Board of Education would continue.
“We look forward to taking testimony from the superintendent and the principals in this matter,” Del Sardo said.
Bass outlined the effects the incident involving nine football players had on students at Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley High Schools in her decision issued Friday.
Interim Superintendent Michael Roth learned from the schools’ principals that two of the nine Hills students were not permitted to attend an automotive shop class at Wayne Valley High School that was part of their regular schedule due to concerns about their physical safety.
According to Bass’s decision, one of the alleged victims of the assault wrote on his Facebook page that he wanted to “kill these kids… [expletive] the only justice in my mind is there [sic] blood on my fist…”.
The decision stated that Roth was “most concerned” about the post. School administrators forwarded excerpts from Facebook posts to the Wayne Police Department.
Roth also described an incident at a pep rally at Wayne Hills that took place immediately prior to the football team’s second-round state sectional playoff game Nov. 18.
The decision states that football players wore their team jerseys to the rally and the junior class wore T-shirts with the words “the Police” on them.
“During the rally, the football players chanted “[expletive] the police” to the juniors and that it took several attempts for staff members to get them to stop,” the decision states.
The attorneys representing the players gave several excuses as to their clients’ conduct: the shirts were Halloween costumes, they were celebrating the rock band The Police, and that “cursing is typical pep rally fare.”
Roth used the incidents to establish that there had been “a troubling change in the tone of his two high school buildings,” the decision read.
The decision stated that two Board policies provide that a “pupil in any grade who fails to demonstrate good citizenship or observe school rules for pupil conduct may forfeit his/her eligibility for participation in athletic competition” and that consequence for conduct away from school grounds may be imposed in accordance with the applicable state regulations,” the decision states.
Three of the nine players, including star wide receiver Andrew Monaghan, are seniors and all of the nine players are starters. Attorneys for the players also argued that prohibiting the players from participating in the game Saturday will “jeopardize athletic scholarships that they are relying upon to attend college, as well negatively impact college admissions opportunities.”
In a separate decision, Bass ruled that Monaghan is also not entitled to emergent relief from an extracurricular ban stemming from an incident with an air horn at the pep rally.
The decision states that Monaghan contends he declined to take possession of the air horn from another student, Joe Lane. The air horn discharged near a teacher’s face, injuring her. Monaghan was suspended from school due to the incident. Monaghan contends that school administrators ignored his request for an informal hearing, denying his due process rights. He was advised that his suspension from extra-curricular activities might extend for the remainder of the school year.