Parents ask Wetzel BOE to deal with coach

The Wetzel County Board of Education listens to remarks from two parents concerning Magnolia High School's football coach. (Photo by Lauren Matthews)

NEW MARTINSVILLE — It has been two weeks since concerned parents and community members approached the Wetzel County Board of Education about a Magnolia football coach.

On Monday night, two concerned mothers returned to the board, pleading that the matter not be “swept under the rug.”

At the Oct. 2 board meeting, a delegation appeared before the board with claims of Magnolia High School football players being bullied by a coach.

Many of those who spoke to the board referenced a Sept. 22 incident that allegedly occurred after Magnolia’s 29-27 loss to Wheeling Central Catholic High School. One parent had claimed that a player was “manhandled out of anger” after the game.

At Monday night’s meeting, parent Elizabeth Seckman noted that she has been criticized on social media, and online, as possibly having a “vendetta,” or belonging “on a soccer field.”

“I’ve spent a decade with at Magnolia football. I know what the program can be and can do, and I love the program.”

Seckman said when the coach in question was first appointed to his position, she was “in total favor.” However, at different places during the last season, “things went badly.” Seckman said there are many misconceptions concerning the current situation and that the problems didn’t just start Friday, Sept. 22. However, Seckman said, the incident that occurred Sept. 22 should have been documented. Seckman questioned as to whether this happened.

On that Friday, “children were struck.” Seckman said she has seen texts from players who support the coach, admitting that the coach put his hands on fellow players.

“Do we believe them, or do we not?” Seckman said of the players.

“The question, for Wetzel County Schools, is that the standards? We tell these kids we have zero tolerance for violence, and we go through the process. But what are we showing these kids?” Seckman asked.

Seckman said parents are watching for the board to make a move. However, “They don’t trust the process, and they don’t trust what is happening in this county. They think there is a network that is impenetrable.”

Yet, Seckman said she still believes in the process. Despite that, she noted, this is her son’s final year, his senior year.

“If this is the direction we are going and teaching kids, then I’m glad it is my son’s senior year.

“They’ve had some great coaches,” Seckman said of each of her sons, who have participated in football. She noted what one coach specifically would say.

“The coach would tell parents that what happens on the field, the amount of time the boys get to play… it isn’t as important as character. The boys just don’t leave Magnolia football players. What they learn they take out into the world.”

Board Member Amy Cooley told Seckman that she didn’t want Seckman to feel as if her concerns fall on deaf ears. “Please keep in mind that you don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. It can’t be discussed.”

Board Member Mike Blair said that no one supports anyone striking a kid. “I’m not tolerant of that,” Blair said. “This isn’t the 70s anymore. I don’t support that. what happened in the investigation, or the findings…I don’t have a clue.” Blair reiterated that he did not support striking a child.

Parent Christina Stapel said she backed up what Seckman said. She said she hears rumors that the complaints and concerns about the coach will be “swept under the rug.” She said she has one child who is a junior, and two other boys that have yet to enter high school. “I don’t want things swept under the rug for them,” she said.

Stapel clarified that she is not angry or bitter because the football team has bad seasons. “I’ve seen kids win together and lose together, and that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is the environment around the boys.”

Stapel said the coach likes her child, who wasn’t struck. However, “other kids were (struck). I saw it happen in the middle of a football field, and as a teacher, I’m a mandated reporter. I reported what I saw, and I did what I was supposed to do.”

Stapel said the situation has just “gone downhill rather quickly, but I want to see those kids be built back up again. Let’s give them something positive to go back up again.”

“I sure hope this wasn’t swept under the rug like rumors have it. I hope something was done and taken care of, maybe counseling has taken place.”

The board did not make any further remarks on the matter, or take any further action. At the Oct. 2 meeting, Board President Warren Grace had requested that the parents and team “trust the system.” He asked that the players finish out the season.

Board Vice President Bill Jones had said he wasn’t taking sides, but apologized to the players “that this happening to you.”