Canton City Schools to consider more discipline for football coaches involved in pizza incident

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CANTON, Ohio (WJW)–Canton City Schools completed its investigation after a family says their teen was forced to eat a pizza despite religious objections.

The district initially suspended eight McKinley High School football coaches, including head coach Marcus Wattley. Further disciplinary action has not been determined and could come after a special meeting of the board of education on Thursday.

It stems from an incident on May 24. An attorney for the family said Wattley made the 17-year-old football player sit in the middle of the gym and told him to eat a whole pepperoni pizza. If he didn’t, his teammates would have to run extra drills. Wattley also allegedly threatened to kick the teen off the team.

The star tackle is of the Hebrew Israeli faith, which strictly forbids eating pork or pork residue. He repeatedly told the coach he doesn’t eat pork and was eventually allowed to pick off the pepperoni, the family’s attorney said. He ate the pizza with the remaining grease and then had to do extra drills outside.

Canton City School Superintendent Jeff Talbert issued a statement on the district’s findings on Wednesday.

“The investigation found that the identified coaches engaged in actions that constituted inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill discipline in the student-athletes. This behavior will not be tolerated and further disciplinary measures for staff, which have not yet been determined, will follow,” Talbert said.

“The football program, which has a long and proud history, is an important part of our school culture and our community. This incident does not reflect the Canton City School District’s culture of protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of our students,” he said.

Talbert said the district also filed a report with police.

The family said it was considering legal action, in a news release from the attorney on Tuesday.

“The family does not feel that this suspension is adequate. The school has not offered any counseling for the child. The child is devastated due to consuming the pork grease pizza and being degraded in front of the entire team,” the attorney said.

The board of education will hold its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Commons at McKinley Senior High School Downtown Campus.

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