(08/28/2008)
Alleged football player hazing could go to court

Former school leader says accused have been punished enough

By Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
dailymail.com

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The family of the 16-year-old former Calhoun High School football player who claims four teammates attacked him in an unsupervised weight room has hired a lawyer and is pondering a lawsuit against the school system.

Sherry Patterson, of Orma, said her family still isn't satisfied by the reaction of the school system after her son Mitchell said he was choked unconscious and had his hands and feet taped together by fellow Red Devils during an Aug. 7 practice session.

"The police have told me nothing," Patterson said. "The school has told me nothing."

But the families of the accused players believe the boys were just engaged in horseplay and want the issue to end, said a former school official speaking on their behalf.

Roger Propst, a former Calhoun High School principal, knows the accused players and their families. He said he served as the families' spokesman during Monday's meeting of the school board.

Sherry Patterson "does not know what happened in that locker room that day," Propst told the Daily Mail Tuesday. "Nor do I or anyone else that wasn't there that day."

Propst said the families of the accused players believe the punishment meted out by school officials was enough.

The four players involved had to sit out one scrimmage game and run extra laps during practice as punishment.

"All they're saying is the school system should be done with it," Propst said.

Each player that was either involved in the alleged hazing or witnessed it gave a written, signed statement about what happened, Propst said.

Propst said school administrators have had two weeks to review the statements and decide whether more punishment is warranted. But that hasn't happened.

"Those (statements) either corroborate this young man's story, or they don't," Propst said.

Both Patterson and Propst said they were upset with the school board for not letting them speak in an open forum about the incident.

Patterson said when she found out she would have to make her comments in closed session to the board, she left the meeting.

"I didn't want to go into closed session with board members without representation," Patterson said.

Propst said he wanted to speak in an open forum so more people would know that Patterson "doesn't have a monopoly on truth" as far as what happened that day.

Propst did end up addressing the board members.

Propst said that none of the accused players is 18 years old, as Patterson claimed. He said the players deny that Mitchell lost consciousness at any point and that the whole episode lasted a mere 30 to 40 seconds.

"These kids are good kids," Propst said. "They're not hoodlums."

Patterson said her son was traumatized by the incident and is still receiving counseling because of it.

She wasn't sure on what grounds the family might sue the school system. But her main concern is that none of the coaches were supervising the players in the weight room, where Mitchell said the attack occurred.

Patterson wouldn't release the name of her family's attorney.

Calhoun Superintendent Jane Lynch was not available for comment. School board president Cynthia Dale did not return a telephone call. Contact information for the other board members was not immediately available.

On Monday, the school board voted to put its policies on bullying and hazing out for public comment. The policies have been in place since 2002 and 1999, respectively.


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