What Sayreville Teaches Us About High-School Locker Rooms

Josh Dawsey & Sharon Terlep:

Inside the Sayreville War Memorial High School locker room where prosecutors say younger football players were sexually abused as part of hazing rituals, older students ran the show. Adults rarely visited, according to former and current players.

At high schools across the country, adult-free locker rooms aren’t uncommon. And Sayreville’s is far from the first to become an alleged crime scene. From Vermont and California to New York and Indiana, largely unsupervised athletes have allegedly engaged in incidents of locker-room impropriety serious enough to result in criminal charges.

But the solution isn’t as simple as it may sound. In many cases, lack of adult supervision reflects administrative fear that grown-ups in the locker room could prey on children or face accusations to that effect, say some coaches and experts. Stationing adults in kids’ locker rooms “could bring a different set of issues or accusations,” said Chris Sampson, superintendent of an Indianapolis-area district embroiled in its own locker-room-related scandal.

In the wake of cases such as Sayreville, where seven older students face juvenile criminal charges of assaulting younger students, some victims, experts and school administrators are calling for rules requiring stricter supervision. The locker room is where students are most vulnerable, they say, making it the last place that supervisors ought to ignore.