The Pryor Times

October 25, 2012

Coach cleared in Locust Grove incident

Sports Editor
Wes Reynolds

LOCUST GROVE — The Locust Grove Board of Education voted to take no disciplinary action against head football coach Matt Hennesy at a special meeting Monday.

The meeting was called by the BOE days after an alleged hazing incident Oct. 10, during a weight lifting class taught by Hennesy.

Members of the board would not say what happened, but said they do not condone the acts.

More than 200 citizens attended and more than 20 gave emotional statements both for and against implementing disciplinary action.

After nearly three hours of deliberation, the board said there was not sufficient evidence to support the charge Hennesy violated an extra duty contract.

Hennesy faces no further examination by the school district.

The Board listened to citizens’ statements, which were based upon rumors.

The board refused to release any information obtained before the meeting, citing unspecific restrictions of legality.

Superintendent David Cash reprimanded any speaker who referenced non-agenda subjects, such as the coach’s name.

According to Locust Grove Police reports, two students were voluntarily bound with athletic tape the day of the incident. What happened next is unclear.

LGPD closed the investigation without further evidence.

Concerned citizen Shawn Bates spoke first.

“What’s confusing to me is that people want to point the finger at the coach and I don’t know the facts, but I have heard the rumors,” Bates said, “some of them confounding.”

Bates said Hennesy, who volunteered at elementary football practices earlier in the year, would not allow drills that mimicked bullying situations.

“He told us the reason I do not want that is because the big kid is going to go up against a smaller kid, and regardless of who wins that battle, someone is going to get laughed at,” said Bates. “These allegations contradict what I have witnessed first-hand.”

Mary Pierce, a former substitute teacher in the district, offered a different perspective.

“The most important rule is not leave students unattended,” Pierce said. “I don’t like excuses, and for these other kids, may God have mercy on you. I just worry about students, because I’m sorry to say, but this world is not going good, and that’s the whole world.”

Anita Fox, a self- proclaimed second mother to some of the players, said a positive change in the players has been visible since Hennesy was hired. She cited his implementation of mandatory ACT testing, a “big brother-little brother” system whereby a freshman is paired with a senior, and strict academic eligibility requirements.

Sherry Smith predicted a dim future for the players if actions aren’t taken to gain control of their behavior.

“I don’t know exactly what happened, only of the rumors that went around,” Smith said. “But if it happened like the kids said, I’m not going to blame the coach. I don’t think it’s all his fault. There is a jail full of child molesters and rapists in one cell for those types of people. If we don’t get control of these boys today, that’s where they’re going to end up.”

Recent transient and single mother ,Tiffany Overstreet, concluded the public forum with a unique perspective.

“I moved here from a big city and I chose Locust Grove because of Matt Hennesy,” Overstreet said. “I heard of his record molding young boys into men to their full potential. You cannot make one man pay for the choices of boys who were going to do what they wanted to do on their own accord.”

Sarah Vanhorn, the last to speak, offered a different/preemptive solution for future bullying situations.

“These kids are going to do what they’ve been taught they can get away with at home,” Vanhorn said. “If you will take care of your children at home and do what you should do at home, you will not have these issues.”

After nearly three hours of deliberation, the board took no action.

Hennesy faces no further examination by the school district.