Editor’s note- The suspensions were first reported by a local newspaper in Camden County.
Parents of suspended high school baseball players for Camden County High spoke publicly at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting about the mishandling of discipline by the baseball coaching staff.
On March 23, some of the players were fighting on the bus, vaping (an electronic nicotine cigarette), and other alleged extreme inappropriate behavior causing the team to weaken the their chances to finish the season strong.
Parents that spoke attributed some of the behavior as being consistently mishandled by the coaches over their tenure of the baseball program.
The parents addressed concerns about how their sons were required to undress on the school bus while the bus video camera was in operation. The parents said their children should be afforded the same privacy rights that are given in locker rooms, bathrooms or any other venues free of cameras.
Parent of a senior player, Chuck Dean, said “the handling of the whole situation was a complete mess. Some of us were never notified by the school, the coaches, or of the incidences involved. There are also issues of the players having to use the bus as their locker room,” said Dean.
The player’s handbook stated that all players were to be dressed 20 minutes before the arrival which requires the students to be in uniform while getting off the bus.
“I find children changing in front of video cameras quite disturbing. The coaches need to be held accountable for their actions, just like the players were. Their job is not to just coach on the field. But to teach, inspire, and be role models for these players. Unless the climate of the program has changed, the reputation of the baseball team will continue to be a negative one. I trust that you will do the right thing and hold the coaches responsible,” said Dean.
Dean further added that if the situation is not taken care of, he would be filing ethics complaints with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission which is the governing body that oversees Georgia’s educators certifications.
Another parent of a senior, Dan Messenger, stated his biggest issue is not with the disciplining of the players, but the mismanagement of the coaching staff.
“While it is embarrassing for his mother and I, children make mistakes, and it is up to us as adults to enforce the rules and prevent them from making these mistakes, regularly. But it seems to us that every single bus ride is an example of irresponsible behavior with no accountability of the adults from keeping the kids from doing these things.”
Messenger states that he has had the players in his home collectively and they do not engage in such behavior because of the boundaries that have been put in place by the adults.
“So why is it that they feel comfortable enough to do these irresponsible behaviors with five adult coaches, not including the bus driver, who is also in an authority figure at the high school.”
AllOnGeorgia-Camden interviewed four sets of parents, along with players, and they all corroborated that the school resource officer was driving the bus during this time. The parents and players reported that the coaches sitting in the front of the bus and were sleeping when the actions were taking place.
Messenger stated that Tuesday night’s meeting was the day that the school district has notified and communicated about the incident occurring on March 23rd.
“Two weeks from today, there has still not been communication from the coaching staff about what went on the bus other than the conversations we have been able to have with the Superintendent and the Athletic Director. But there has been no communication whatsoever as to what took place. I have a serious issue with that, and I believe we should have some resolution.” explained Messenger.
Another parent of a senior baseball player, Shannon Wainwright, said that all of these behaviors were preventable with appropriate adult supervision.
“This is not an isolated incident on this bus. What happened on the bus is a reflection of a level of respect that has gone on in the baseball team and program.”
Wainwright expressed that the boys put all of their time and effort into becoming a Wildcat by participating in travel ball and other notable events, but to only be disappointed. Wainwright described an incident with another senior last year behavior was allowed to go on and caused them to miss the rest of their senior year due to lack of adult supervision.
“These boys have vested their heart and soul into this program and into their teammates. I am not the parent that says their child is perfect. I am going to hold him accountable. But obviously, there were five coaches and a resource officer that were on that bus too. This is a reflection of what is allowed and what continues as far as teenagers are concerned. They need boundaries. They need discipline, along and along, so that it does not end up with such a huge punishment. If you talk to the players, they will tell you this is not the first time. The program is not where it needs to be, and I hope it turns around,” said Wainwright.
AllOnGeorgia-Camden reached out via email to Athletic Director Coach Welton Coffey about the public statements from the parents, the suspension, and possible educator misconduct. A response was not given before publishing.
To view the video of the public comments, visit AllOnGeorgia-Camden Facebook page.