Superintendent ‘sets the record straight’ on firing of McKinley coaches in pizza incident

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CANTON, Ohio (WJW)– Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Talbert released a video statement on Wednesday to, “Set the record straight” about the recent firing of seven McKinley High School football coaches.

Head coach Marcus Wattley’s termination came after the family of a 17-year-old football player said the boy was forced to eat a pizza, then run extra drills as a form of punishment for missing practice for an injury.

The teen, who is of the Hebrew Israeli faith, objected to eating the pepperoni pizza and was eventually allowed to pick off the meat. The family’s attorney said the coach threatened to kick the boy off the team and told him his teammates would have to do extra drills if he didn’t eat the pizza.

On Tuesday, Wattley and assistant coach Tyler Thatcher were joined by their attorney at a news conference, where they called for their due process. The attorney also said they gave the athlete the option of chicken, instead of pork.

Talbert responded by detailing the district’s investigation, including security video of the incident.

“These false accusations go against the very fabric of who we are as an institution of learning that is dedicated to student achievement and success. At Canton City Schools, we believe in honestly, integrity and transparency,” the superintendent said.

Talbert outlined the following:

  • On May 24, troubling actions of our former football coaching staff came to the attention ofour district administration.
  • On May 25, an investigation into these troubling allegations began. At this time, to provide student safety, coaches were placed on suspension, barred from returning to campus, while the investigation occurred.
  • As part of the investigation, the district spoke with the involved coaches who are on staff.
  • As part of the investigation, the district requested permission to speak with student-athletes present during the incident. The district spoke with a number of student-athletes who were given permission to speak.
  • As part of the investigation, the district viewed security video footage of the incident. This video footage is extensive and it clearly shows the identified coaches engaging in actions that constituted inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill
  • discipline in the student-athletes.
  • The investigation satisfied the reporting requirements established by the State of Ohio including the submission of appropriate materials to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct for their review. Also, in an effort to be comprehensive, and with our student’s wellbeing in mind, a police report was filed by the district.
  • With the student’s safety as our primary objective, the investigation was proper, timely, and appropriate, meeting the requirements established by the State of Ohio.
  • The investigation established that the behavior of the then-coaching staff constituted inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior and it was unbecoming of the teaching profession. Their actions demonstrated extraordinarily poor judgement.
  • This investigation substantiated that based upon their extraordinarily inappropriate actions, the seven members of the coaching staff, including the head coach, would no longer be coaches with the Canton City School District.

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