ROSELLE, NJ - The Roselle girls basketball team did not initiate a brawl with a team from a Newark school earlier this month, according to a recently concluded investigation.
After an investigation conducted by Newark and Roselle officials, it has been determined that members of the Roselle girls basketball team did not throw the first punch when a full-scale brawl broke out between the team and spectators who rushed the court at a game on Feb. 9 between the American History girls team from Newark and the Roselle team.
The incident sent six Roselle players to the hospital with a variety of injuries.
Roselle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin West announced that his administration has taken several critical steps in providing essential social and emotional support to students and families affected by the altercation between the Abraham Clark and American History girls teams that left six Roselle athletes injured.
Additionally, he announced, Roselle schools are working collaboratively with Newark Public Schools to examine the details of the incident and to establish safeguards and checkpoints to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“Following this incident, we embarked on an extensive fact-finding and investigative process and we have determined that Roselle players should receive no disciplinary action for what transpired at American History High,” Dr. West said. “We are pleased with the level of collaboration with Newark Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf and with members of his administration as we determine exactly what happened that night because, as superintendent, my number one priority is to ensure the safety of our students.”
Standard procedure calls for the host district to provide security, West said, adding that any on-court altercation must be addressed “instantly, as students can suffer severe injuries in just a matter of seconds.”
“The brevity of the incident is irrelevant because the damage can be done so quickly,” West said.
Roselle’s Abraham Clark High School’s girls’ basketball season was cut short because of the injuries, said coach Antoine Patterson.
“Our student-athletes are so resilient and they are doing remarkably well, but this season has met an unfortunate—and preventable—end,” he said.
Roselle Athletic Director Rick Schmid said, “We look to our host districts to provide the safety and security that was clearly lacking. Moving forward, we look forward to working with Newark Public Schools and all of our host districts to ensure a safe environment. However, American History High School will be eliminated from our schedule.”
Abraham Clark High School Principal Rashon Mickens said the Roselle school district is providing guidance and crisis intervention for students and families affected by the incident. The effort is a collaboration between the Abraham Clark High School guidance department and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth.
“We have been providing daily counseling and we have been meeting regularly with our girls’ basketball team to discuss the incident as we move forward,” Mickens said, adding that each player affected will follow a crisis intervention plan to address specific needs.
Upon West’s request, Newark Superintendent Cerf agreed to host Roselle school officials to discuss and to jointly review surveillance video of the incident. The Feb. 19 meeting determined several facts:
• The incident followed a defensive foul by an American History High player.
• An American History High player initiated the altercation by throwing a punch at the Roselle player.
• Four American History High student spectators and one additional student spectator from another Newark school were the primary aggressors as the altercation spread.
• The incident lasted approximately 1 minute and 25 seconds. A security guard entered the court approximately one minute into the altercation, with minimal impact.
Newark Public Schools has cancelled the rest of American History High’s girls’ basketball team’s season and the team will be placed on a one-year probation for 2016-2017 season with the elimination of the team as the next step should another incident occur.
Additionally, the Newark players involved have been suspended from school and Newark Public Schools will also put the players on probation for other sports in which they participate, West said.
The Newark players involved have written letters of apologies to the injured Roselle students and their families and have offered to work on a joint project in the future. West said specifics of the project have yet to be determined.
In the meantime, West thanked Cerf and the Newark Public Schools for being accountable and for working to establish necessary measures to prevent similar instances from occurring in the future. He also thanked Roselle officials, as well as the students and families, affected.
“Our coaches always handle themselves in a professional manner, and this proved to be extremely important in this instance,” West said.
“Most of all, I want to thank our parents for their patience and support and to our amazing students for showing good character and judgment in the face of a level of adversity no child should be subjected to. My job is to protect them and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,” he added.