Emotions run high at Wall HS school board meeting amid hazing scandal
A Wall Township School Board member has offered his resignation as the community reels from hazing and sexual assault allegations involving the high school football team.
Board member Russell Gartz resigned on Tuesday, effective immediately. He did not attend a school board meeting held Tuesday night to address the community’s concerns.
The remaining school board members assured the public that the allegations are not being swept under the rug. The football season has been canceled, including the annual Thanksgiving game against Manasquan.
But as the board members worked to calm the community, others spoke out about how the abuse on the football team has been going on for years.
“He presented me to the locker room like I was a fresh kill. He dragged me across the locker room where I was kicked, whipped with towels, pads and helmets. I don’t know how I got out,” said Erick Duchak, class of 1997.
Duchak spoke to the board publicly for the first time about the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of football players 27 years ago.
“I had been on that floor and been swarmed by athletes like that. I knew I had to say something. I knew I had to share my experience in the hope that no one else suffered in the way that I have,” Duchak says.
Earlier, Superintendent Tracy Handerhan told the crowd that the district acted as soon as they heard the most recent allegations of hazing and abuse. Authorities are in possession of a least one video showing the alleged assault of a younger player.
“In response to the rumors that Wall Township Public Schools is sweeping this under the rug, I am here to tell you that that is absolutely false,” Handerhan says.
The superintendent says that the district is stepping up safety measures, implementing counselors and increasing communication with students and parents.
But her words were met with skepticism, especially from those who say that nothing has changed.
“My son was taken advantage of and was told to do a sexual act to another football player in the locker room. How could this occur? I want to know how this could be an ongoing issue all these years,” said one mother.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has taken over the investigation into the hazing and sexual abuse allegations.
The office says that the Wall Township Police Department has been “walled off from participating further” in the investigation. This includes both the hazing case and separate incidents alleging sexual assault.
Acting prosecutor Lori Linskey is asking the public for information.
"We are working diligently and we're dedicating every necessary resource we have to uncover the truth in a fair, unbiased, and just manner. But we really do need your help. So if you have any information at all, please reach out to us,” she said.
Anyone who may have information is asked to call the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential tip line at 1-800-671-4400.