High School Hazing

Absegami players investigated, coach suspended, parents frustrated.

Hazing at a South Jersey High School?

A handful of varsity players for the boys' basketball team at Absegami High School are under investigation. The coach, former NBA player Mel Bennett, has been suspended.

Parents seem frustrated at the lack of information. They want to know what the heck is really going on.

Here's what The Press of Atlantic City is reporting:

An apparent hazing incident involving the Absegami High School boys' basketball team is under investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.

Henry White, the parent of an Absegami varsity player, said Thursday night his son told him the alleged hazing incident involved three varsity players and a junior varsity player.

After canceling a Tuesday practice and a Wednesday scrimmage, the school suspended coach Mel Bennett and replaced him with former girls coach Greg Goodwin, who coached the Braves girls to two state championships.

School and law enforcement officials said little on the matter and would not address the allegation of hazing.

Galloway Township Police Sgt. Kevin Mott said the investigation had been turned over to the Prosecutor's Office.

The Prosecutor's Office declined comment. Mott did not return follow-up calls asking why the matter had been referred to the county.
Athletic Director Steve Fortis declined to comment on Bennett's suspension and referred questions about the apparent hazing situation to Greater Egg Harbor Regional Assistant Superintendent Tom Grossi.

Grossi declined comment, citing student-privacy laws. School solicitor Lou Greco did not return calls placed to his cell phone Thursday evening.

White said the lack of information coming from the school is troubling.

"That's the frustrating part," said White, a Galloway Township resident. "We haven't gotten any information, a phone call, nothing."

The district's hazing policy forbids the practice and holds staff members accountable for staying alert to possible circumstances or events that could include hazing, and for stopping and reporting any known or planned hazing. Failure to do so will result in discipline, according to the policy.

Goodwin said school administrators approached him about taking over the team Thursday. Today will be his first practice.

Bennett, 53, declined to reveal the reason he was given for his suspension.

Bennett had coached Absegami to a 17-9 record in his only season last year. The Braves made the South Jersey Group IV playoffs but lost in the first round.

A school administrator told him of the suspension via a phone call. Bennett declined to say who called. A former NBA player, he has been a fixture on the local basketball scene. He was a long-time Ocean City assistant and former Oakcrest head coach.

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