A Jackson, MS high school basketball coach is on leave as he awaits the findings of an investigation brought about by serious allegations made against him by three of his players. According to the them, Marlon Dorsey whipped the boys with a leather weightlifting belt last month during one of the team’s practices for running plays incorrectly. The players have formally filed a lawsuit against their coach.
While the Murray High School coach hasn’t specifically address the allegations about the whippings, he did admit to paddling students. Given that corporal punishment has been banned by Jackson public schools, the matter would seem to be an open-and-shut case. Surprisingly, it’s not.
His admission to paddling was given to a reporter from the Clarion Ledger, a Jackson-based newspaper which also published an excerpt from a letter the coach wrote.
“I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis,” the letter states. “I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students.”
Other than the apology at the end of the excerpt, it’s very difficult to understand exactly what Dorsey is talking about.
Many parents are outraged. Hailicia Francis believes that her son, Daniel, a senior on the team, has not only been physically abused, but psychologically abused as well. Daniel was too intimidated to even tell his parents, both of whom don’t believe in spanking, about the whippings in practice. “What hurts me so bad,” she said, “is you have intimidated my child so bad that he couldn’t come to either one of us … I entrusted this man with my child, and this is what you do to me.”
But the coach is not without his supporters. Gary Love, whose son plays for Dorsey, is one of them. He’s quick to point out that the disciplinarian has brought about some much-needed changes to the culture of the team.
“He has made them go to study hall, makes them turn in their homework and makes them give weekly reports of their school work. It’s been all positive with one bad incident. He made a huge mistake, but he is human.
“It was poor judgment, but he is an outstanding person, determined and driven to make those kids better. I think we all need to step back and give him his job back.”
After seeing video taken from a cell phone of the practice whipping that aired on CNN, I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Love. While I’m all in favor of a hard-nosed approach to getting kids to tow the line, whippings go well above and beyond such an approach. Not to mention that it’s illegal in Jackson.
Here’s the scary part. It’s the coach’s first year on the job. If he gets a free pass on this one, just think what he’ll feel entitled to do after, say, have a decade at the helm.
I hope he gets canned. What’s your take?
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