A group of teenage girls from Louisiana were dismissed from their high school’s basketball team after claiming their coach was too “touchy-feely” with them.
CBS Local Sports reports seven teens from Salmen High School in Slidell — Kayla Sibley, Darnelle Webb, Myrezonte Cooper, Amara Bickham, Jazmine McKain, Antoinette Neal and Brianna Rudolph — accused their new coach, Panos Bountovinas, of being inappropriate with them.
Some of his alleged behavior included standing in the locker room as they got dressed. Sibley told reporters the coach would place his hand on her shoulders and other places, gestures she never experienced with their previous coach.
The New Orleans Advocate reports:
“I felt uncomfortable around him on and off the court because he was very feely. Hand on the shoulders and other places and stuff,” Sibley said. “It made me feel uncomfortable. I never had a touchy-feely coach before. I felt uncomfortable.”
After their complaints reportedly went unanswered by the school’s administrators, the girls protested by sitting out of last Tuesday’s game. The next day, they were removed from the team. When asked why, Principal Brennan McCurley told the girls they “weren’t allowed to ask questions.”
The players’ parents support their decision and believe the teens had no choice but to protest the game.
“They didn’t play because we wanted to get the principal and coach to the table to talk about the issues we have,” said Myles Cooper, a parent of one of the players. “This is not a witch hunt against the coach. We want the best for our kids, and we want our kids safe.”
A statement was released by the school last Wednesday and an investigation into the claims has been launched.
“Four parents brought forward concerns on Monday to Salmen Principal Brennan McCurley in regards to the school’s girls basketball team. Mr. McCurley and Mr. Jerry Leonard, Salmen’s Athletic Director, met with the parents on Monday to discuss the allegations. The Salmen administration interviewed all members of the girls basketball team, and with the assistance of School System administrators, including former Salmen High School Principal and current Senior Supervisor of Administration, Mr. Byron Williams fully investigated the allegations. The St. Tammany Parish Public School System does full background checks on all potential employees including fingerprinting, criminal background checks, and many other precautions. The safety of our students is our top priority, and we take every measure to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all students.”
Reporters spoke with the parent of a student Bountovinas previously coached. The parent, who was not identified, said the coach was “lax” about the game of basketball, but didn’t have problems with his behavior.
“He was really wonderful….the girls loved him,’’ the parent said. As a basketball coach, his knowledge of the game was “a little lax,’’ she said, crediting the state championship earned under him to the quality of the team. But she praised his interaction with the team and said he worked well with parents.
“He’s a gatherer,’’ the parent said. “The girls were devastated when he left.’’
The school is currently deciding whether the players will be allowed back on the team. Their parents are expected to be notified as early as this week.