Was boy tied and dragged? NJ school hazing report becomes political football
WEST NEW YORK — The mayor has asked his police department to investigate a possible hazing incident involving the Memorial High School baseball team.
The details of what supposedly happened to the player have raised concerns in the community but also has become a political argument between the mayor and his rivals who control the school district.
Mayor Felix Roque says a player was bound, gagged and dragged around a field by teammates. At a news conference on Thursday, he said a teacher told him about the April 4 incident. Roque said there was video of the hazing that was shared on social media but he has not seen it.
In a statement prior to the mayor's news conference, schools Superintendent Clara Brito Herrera said the district was investigating "an alleged incident [...] brought to my attention concerning alleged bullying/hazing involving a few of our student athletes."
Roque called the incident "outrageous."
"I have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior happening in West New York. I am making the superintendent and the president of the Board of Education accountable. I am ordering today my police department to do a full investigation ... I will make sure heads are going to roll if I find out who the culprit is and they will get the full extent of the law if some criminal act has been violated," said Roque, who has a child enrolled in the school.
The mayor has no control over the school district, which is overseen by an elected school board.
Roque accused the superintendent of "playing politics with the safety of our children."
Roque said Herrera had not returned his phone calls and called her "unprofessional and disrespectful."
Roque also accused Herrera of giving non-tenured school workers a day off to campaign for his opponent in the May 14 mayoral election, comparing the action to helping the spread of communism in his homeland of Cuba.
Herrera did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about Roque's statements Thursday afternoon.
The baseball team's scheduled game in North Bergen on Wednesday was postponed until Thursday for "logistical reasons."