On Wednesday, Oct. 18, an emergency board of education meeting was held by Sayville School District to address recent media attention and community concern stemming from an email sent out by superintendent Dr. Marc Ferris to parents concerning the cancellation of the boys varsity soccer team’s remaining season after a hazing incident and the “systemic” hazing of previous soccer team members was uncovered during the investigation.
“I know this is an upsetting situation,” said Ferris in his opening.
On Tuesday, Oct. 10, the district became aware of a hazing incident with the team through a Snapchat post, where a sophomore student was on their knees in an off-campus parking lot as a senior student stood over them and hit them on the back of the head. Several other students were seen in the video and can be heard laughing.
Comments on the Snapchat post included, “He got what he deserved.”
Ferris said during the investigation, it was discovered that this was a practice passed down from previous teams, where a senior classman was chosen as the “supreme leader” and was responsible for administering “raps” for instances such as being late to practice.
On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Sayville athletic director Ryan Cox held a meeting with the varsity and junior varsity soccer teams to discuss what constituted hazing and the importance of “building strong, positive team cultures.”
Ferris said at this point, there was no decision to cancel the team’s season.
Hazing was defined to the students as “an activity expected of someone joining or consisting of a group and humility is to abuse or endanger them and happens regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate,” and the spectrum of hazing incidents was discussed.
The student code of conduct was discussed, where hazing is prohibited.
During the executive session of a board meeting the evening of Oct. 11, it was decided that further investigation would be carried out and Ferris said that while not all team members were interviewed, a majority were.
Students were asked five questions during the interview and had their cell phones held during the interview. During these interviews, it was discovered that other team members were hit throughout the season.
Additional team members administered the hitting, not just the supreme leader
Reasons for hitting included being late to practice, but also infractions like drinking from the wrong water bottle during practice
On Thursday, Oct. 12, some members of the soccer team wore T-shirts to school protesting the disciplinary decision taken against the supreme leader. On Thursday afternoon, the administration decided to cancel the remaining two games of the season.
Ferris addressed the districtwide letter sent out to parents and noted that a major concern was the usage of the words “racism” and “antisemitism” to describe past incidents that were wrongly attributed to the current team.
“None of the students this year were involved in anything antisemitic or racist,” said Ferris.
Ferris outlined his actions with various news organizations to clarify his statement.
An investigation earlier this year, that culminated in findings presented at a September 2023 board meeting executive session, confirmed that antisemitic bullying had occurred on a previous soccer team with a now former student of Sayville School District.
On Oct. 5, following the confirmation of antisemitic bullying, the following statement was placed on the school website that read in part: “The board of education is committed to the safety and well-being of all students—this includes protecting our [students from] racism, bullying, or hazing of any kind. Recently, our board learned that a former student of our schools was subject to antisemitic comments throughout their time in our high school and as a member of one of our sports teams. We are saddened by this and extremely disappointed in what occurred, and sorry that our former student endured that kind of experience while in our schools.”