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SAYREVILLE, N.J. – Hundreds of people came out for an anti-bullying rally in a central New Jersey town that's been rocked by allegations of sex-related hazing on its high school football team that prompted the cancellation of the rest of the season.
The Sunday night rally was staged in a park across the street from the school, Sayreville War Memorial High. Organizers said the event was held to promote unity and healing within the community and to show support for the victims of bullying.
Participants were given balloons, ribbons, stickers and candles. They were asked to walk around the lake at Kennedy Park and release the balloons or show other forms of support.
Alex Simon, 24, a Sayreville native who recently moved to Connecticut to attend law school, said he came back home for the event to show support for his community. Simon attended schools in the town and served for a time as a substitute teacher in the school district.
"This will be a long recovery process for our community, but this is a good first step," Simon said of the rally. "I've talked with lots of people (about the hazing claims) and they were upset about it, but I think this event is a good way to start getting things better. I've always loved this town and will always support it."
Seven students face sex-crime charges stemming from the alleged hazing. Three were charged with aggravated sexual assault, criminal restraint, hazing and other crimes stemming from an act of sexual penetration upon one of the children. The other four students were charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact and other crimes.
District officials said Sunday that all seven have been suspended.
No coaches have been charged, and it isn't clear if any knew about the alleged incidents.