- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

PARLIN, N.J. (AP) - A central New Jersey town rocked by allegations of hazing on its football team that prompted the cancellation of the rest of the season prepared for a Friday night without football as Gov. Chris Christie called the alleged conduct “extraordinarily disturbing.”

Authorities continue to investigate the behavior at Sayreville War Memorial High School that prompted the schools’ superintendent to cancel the rest of the season’s games. They have not said what the alleged hazing incidents involved.

Christie on Thursday expressed outrage at the allegations and told reporters in Trenton that, as a father of four, he was especially appalled.

“The facts as reported currently are extraordinarily disturbing and, as the father of a number of teenage athletes, the idea that that kind of conduct could be permitted - if it’s true … in a high school athletics program, or anywhere else in our state for that matter, is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

On Monday night, Superintendent Richard Labbe announced he was canceling the rest of the season after the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office substantiated allegations of hazing involving members of the school’s football team. The prosecutor’s office hasn’t charged anyone and hasn’t released details of its investigation.

Parents and students in the township near the Raritan Bay have complained that the whole team is being punished. Labbe has stood by his decision and has said the time has come for students and others to step forward when bullying is occurring.

Labbe didn’t return a phone message seeking comment Thursday. His action was applauded by anti-bullying advocates.

“This is a good strong step toward affirming the importance of this issue,” said Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.

Residents describe Sayreville as a blue-collar town that isn’t necessarily football crazy. Rather, it’s a town that is “crazy about its kids,” said Holly Emory, whose son is a 15-year-old sophomore defensive tackle on the football team.

Emory said her son and his friends have said they haven’t seen any hazing among team members.

“I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” said Emory, of Parlin. “I’m just saying we’re not getting any corroboration from our kids.”

Christie said he has full confidence in the prosecutor leading the effort and said he has spoken to the attorney general’s office and his education commissioner regarding the case and its broader implications.

“You think when you send your child to a sporting activity that they’re going to be engaged in activity that’s positive for them, that’s uplifting, that teaches them the right type of lessons. If that’s what went on in Sayreville, then that’s not what parents were expecting their children to be exposed to or taught, and it’s unacceptable,” Christie said.

Sayreville War Memorial High School was to have played Monroe on Friday night at home.

An anti-bullying rally is planned for Sunday night in a park across the street from the high school. Emory said parents have asked those attending not to wear Bombers gear so they don’t “pour salt in the wound.”

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this story from Trenton.

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