Letter to the Editor By "Elaine Aragon"

Elaine Aragon
Parental complaints not appreciated by St. Mary's County Public Schools
I applaud the student body of the University of Maryland, and all the other influential and political persons who spoke up and challenged the decision by the University to retain their head football coach, after it appears his “toxic” and bullying team environment greatly contributed to the death of a student athlete. What a pathetic and revealing example of school administrators (and in this case the University System of Maryland board of regents) not having the grit to make the tough decision. Somewhat similar scenarios have occurred in St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS). Even when an official complaint was filed regarding dangerous, deceitful and bullying behavior by a local high school head coach, along with eyewitness accounts, video footage and photos proving the unacceptable behaviors, the school administration (specifically the high school principal) chose to retain this coach. As with the University of Maryland example, an investigation by SMCPS was reportedly conducted, yet nothing has apparently changed – the head coach is still in position and running her “type” of program without any perceivable repercussions or restrictions. This decision by SMCPS school administrators makes it appear that they are not at all concerned with the safety and well-being of their student athletes – especially for this sport. With the plethora of complaints and concerns (just in the past 2 years) raised regarding this coach, it’s unfortunate the principal has turned a blind eye to the MANY indiscretions, and is enabling the behaviors to continue. All by choosing NOT to make the tough decision, of removing her from the head coaching position. A Board of Education member and the Superintendent were also notified of the complaints, yet they chose to do nothing. I thought bullying by ANYONE is not to be tolerated in the schools? What type of message is being sent to student athletes subjected to this coach’s manipulative and toxic team environment – that SMCPS is not looking out for their welfare? That if you’re a high school coach, you can act like a serial bully and get away with it?? Does SMCPS actually hope that when parents make the effort to report credible complaints about a coach, and these complaints are, in essence, swept under the rug, that the parents will just give up, and the issue will go away?? That is what it seems like in this case, and others like it. Unfairly, the parents who file complaints are often labeled as nuisance and problem parents by school personnel. My decision to write this letter will most certainly vilify me to those at SMCPS, and even a certain local newspaper refused to print this. It takes courage to speak up and out against a high school coach, especially in a close-knit community. In addition, every parent has the right to report inappropriate and dangerous conduct of a coach to the school, and to keep reporting incidences until the situation has been satisfactorily rectified. Shouldn’t the school administration be thankful for the insight into a harassing and potentially lethal situation? One would think so. I agree with what Ellis McKennie, (a current U of MD football player and teammate of the player who died), said about that school’s administrators not “having the courage to hold someone accountable for their actions”. He also said it best with, “It’s never the wrong time to do what’s right”. After all, actions DO speak louder than words, and the actions of this high school head coach are anything but “Kind”!