Sparta educators, police huddle over football game beating

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:55

    SPARTA -- School officials have been meeting with township police to formulate a response to the beating of a 13-year-old girl earlier this month in Dykstra Park behind the Library. Three ninth-grade girls were apprehended this week at Sparta High School following the Friday night incident and charged with two counts of assault and one count of criminal restraint, said police chief Ernie Reigstad. Penalties are left to the discretion of the Division of Juvenile Services and can range from counseling to a confinement in the county detention center, the chief said. "It's important to know all the factors behind why this happened and how it happened," said Reigstad, who met this week with Sparta High School principal Richard Lio. "We need to cool down just a little bit," said Lio. "We're talking. We need to and will do something. We want to make sure we're sending out the proper message and to the targeted audience n parents as well as students." Lio said he has received a number of calls from concerned parents since the beating occurred in a darkened area during a Friday night youth league football game off Sparta Avenue and Woodport Road. "We have a responsibility as administrators and teachers to talk to students and parents and let them know what is and what isn't acceptable behavior," he said. Lio said the school has not disciplined the three teenagers charged -- a 15-year-old from Woodport Road, a 14-year-old from Sleepy Hollow Road, and another 14-year-old from Maple Tree Lane n because the attack did not take place on school grounds. Reigstad said police officers were on patrol during this past weekend's games at Ungerman Field and reported no incidents. "We have problems from time to time," he said. "The town is growing. Everything goes in cycles and problems go in cycles. We need to deal with these problems in a variety of ways. It's not just a law enforcement effort. We need to work with the parents." The victim, an eighth-grader at Rev. Brown School, was taken by ambulance to Newton Memorial hospital following the altercation and treated for injuries to her face and neck, police said. The three alleged attackers were detained briefly by Sparta police that night for questioning and released. A 17-year-old junior at Sparta High School is being credited with intervening to protect the victim from further injury, police said. "There's a great bunch of kids in town and he's one of them," said Reigstad. "This is a community that always works together to make sure it's a safe environment for children. We've had a number of programs for children over the years, but sometimes the kids don't want to be around adults. But, the majority of kids in town are great."