LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ -- A high school football game between Lawrence Township High School and Hamilton Township's Steinert High School turned dark Friday night when two male students from the home team's school allegedly committed a bias crime against four female victims.
The juvenile males, who are believed to be of Asian-Indian descent, were charged with multiple counts of harassment, bias intimidation, and lewdness, according to law enforcement officials. The victims are described as African-American female middle school students.
At a Tuesday press conference, Lawrence police Lieutenant Joseph Lech said that they received reports at approximately 7:00 am Saturday morning that posts on social media described the bias incident from the previous night. The posts, it has been reported, indicated that during the third quarter of the football game students seated in the bleachers heard racially derogatory language being used and that some victims may have been urinated upon.
In addition to interviews with the victims, as well as several witnesses, videos of the incident were obtained and viewed by the Lawrence Police Department and Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, all leading to the charges against the suspects who were arrested Saturday evening.
Lawrence Township Police Chief Brian Caloiaro insisted that the five police officers who were present at the football game were not told that a bias incident occurred at the game on the night that it happened.
"Our school district values all students and every single member of our community. Intolerant behavior has no form or place in our schools or in our community," said Dr. Ross Kasun, Lawrence Township School District Superintendent who added that diversity is one of the school's greatest strengths. The school's leadership team, he said, has fully cooperated and communicated with our police department.
Kasun added that the school district is not in the punishment business rather they are in the "teachable moment business."
Hamilton Township School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Rocco issued a statement Monday confirming that the incident did not involve students from Steinert High School.
"We recognize the severity of these incidents and appreciate the continuous communication from Lawrence School District. The Hamilton Township School District is in full support of the Lawrence School District as we all continue to ensure the safety of every person in our communities," added Rocco.
"Hate has no home here. Hatred is a cancer and, much like cancer, when it pops up we need to take appropriate action," said Lawrence Township Mayor Christopher Bobbitt.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Elizabeth Meyers and tell her about it.