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Board upholds suspensions of nine N.J. football players

The Wayne Board of Education agreed Friday to uphold a ruling by the district superintendent to suspend the Wayne Hills players, who face aggravated assault charges stemming from a brawl at a private party on Oct. 29.

The nine are accused in the beating of two students from another high school in the Passaic County district. Authorities say one victim was beaten unconscious and left in the road, and one was kicked and stomped while on the ground.

School officials have allowed the players to compete in two playoff games that have been held since the brawl, a decision that angered many residents who felt the players were receiving special treatment. But coach Chris Olsen and other community members argued that keeping the players off the field would violate their rights to due process, while lawyers for the players claimed that the facts of the case were being misrepresented by residents and in media reports.

Friday’s ruling, which came after the board held an emergency meeting on the matter, means the player will not be able to compete when top-seeded Wayne Hills plays Old Tappan on Dec. 3 for the North 1, Group 3 title.

It also came two weeks after Michael Roth, the district’s interim superintendent, said the players couldn’t be suspended from extracurricular activities because the school had no jurisdiction over an incident that took occurred off school grounds. That allowed the players to compete in the first round of the playoffs.

Roth reversed his decision on Nov. 16, citing a further review of case law. But following a raucous public meeting the next day, which was attended by Olsen and most of the football team dressed in their jerseys, the school board decided to temporarily stay Roth’s decision. That meant the nine players were allowed to play in the second round of the playoffs.

The board plans to hold another hearing Tuesday to discuss evidence in the case. But Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes has urged the district to cancel that session, saying it could jeopardize the criminal investigation and compromise the rights of the accused players and the two alleged victims.

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