Parents: Wetzel County coach bullies players

Photo by Lauren Matthews Parents and residents Monday attended the Wetzel County Board of Education meeting where they claimed a coach at Magnolia High School bullied football players.

NEW MARTINSVILLE — A coach in Wetzel County is being accused of bullying football players.

Parents and residents appeared before the Board of Education Monday with claims Magnolia High School football players are being bullied by a coach, who was not named at the meeting.

They spoke about a Sept. 22 incident allegedly after Magnolia’s 29-27 loss to Wheeling Central Catholic High School.

Parent Christina Stapel said a player was “manhandled out of anger” after the game.

“Even if you are slapping shoulder pads to get attention … it is not OK to put hands on someone out of anger,” she said.

Stapel said the students cannot stand up and fight for themselves because they do not know if there will be retaliation, such as loss of playing time. She described the situation as an embarrassment to Magnolia High School and the county, and she said kids shouldn’t have to worry about being belittled in front of their teammates and coaches.

“I know some of the coaching staff is wanting to leave, and I don’t think it is the time to do it,” Stapel said. “I think they need to come together as a coaching staff. Changes need to take place. Adults need to step in and get these changes taking place. See if you can help intervene, initiate a counseling session or something, to get everyone on the same page.”

Parent and middle school football coach Bryan Hostuttler said he has coached many of the players on Magnolia’s football team. He said he has seen the players in tears after certain games, and that the players lament that all they hear is negative feedback, nothing positive.

“Oftentimes verbal abuse is just worse than getting punched in the face,” Hostuttler said. “The scars last the rest of one’s life.”

Another parent, Elizabeth Seckman, said she believes the coach should not be able to remain on the job while the investigation continues. She believes the concerns of parents and students are not being heard.

Seckman said she has witnessed the bullying behavior the past two seasons. Though she can chalk some behavior up to coaching, she disagrees “when someone starts putting hands on kids, who are kneeling on the ground, in a huddle when it is a person decades older, a man and these are children.”

Seckman estimated that 90 percent of the team went to Magnolia’s administration, requesting help. However, “I feel it fell on deaf ears. That coach was back at practice that night.”

Seckman said she has sons who have played under two other coaches and “brought home two championship rings.”

“Those coaches did it with dignity and respect. They didn’t have to bully or cajole. These kids loved their coaches, and they stood up and worked extra hard. You don’t have to be tough on a kid, if that is what they want to call it.”

Board of Education President Warren Grace said the board is in the process of investigating. Grace said the board has received “a lot of information here this evening and are aware of this. We are in the process of looking into this.”

Grace said that although parents have not heard anything, “it doesn’t mean nothing is being done.”

“There is a process involved here. If a hearing were to be held, we have to be totally impartial and hear the facts,” Grace said.

Resident Ron Hoyt cautioned that the community is not just jeopardizing “one football game, or one football practice.”

“Right now, with all this crowd here, everyone better keep a level head. We’ve played football here at Magnolia High School for over 100 years. There have been all kinds of problems,” he said. “I’ve watched 60 some years of it. There have always been problems, but we’ve been able to smooth it out and straighten it up.

“You aren’t just jeopardizing a football team,” Hoyt said. “You are jeopardizing a program that is really cherished here in New Martinsville, West Virginia, and at Magnolia High School.”

Misty Adams read a letter to the board from Deloris West. West recounted the Sept. 22 situation, as she saw it, after Magnolia’s varsity football game against Wheeling Central.

West claimed a coach, “in a fit of rage,” repeatedly yelled at the kids. West recounted that the coach shoved one of the football players. West claimed that another coach, standing nearby, told parents that they need to go to the board of education, as well as law enforcement.

West described, in detail, the expressions on the players’ faces after the incident. She said the looks were “something no mother wants to see.”

“You play as a team, and you lose as a team,” West had written to the board. “It is supposed to be a bully free school,” she added. “How is that supposed to be when the teacher is the bully, or a coach?”

Board Vice President Bill Jones said he was not taking sides, but “I’m sorry to the players that this is happening to you.”

Grace said he would like to see the players “finish the year.”

“Trust the system if you could. Finish out the year. It may not be the most pleasant thing you’ve done in your life,” Grace said.