Alex Podlogar

Thinking outside the pressbox

Parent: son a victim of crime

Published in The Sanford Herald on January 12, 2009

By ALEX PODLOGAR

Sports Coverage

SANFORD — Thomas Shoop, the father of Southern Lee junior football player Blade Shoop, plans to address the Lee County Board of Education at its meeting tonight about what he says was a crime committed against his son on the school’s campus.

Shoop also alleges verbal abuse and bullying on the part of first-year coach Bill Maczko.

Thomas Shoop contends that on Nov. 13, 2008, unknown persons entered the school’s varsity locker room and cut locks off of lockers and vandalized and stole student property, including Blade’s. Citing a U.S. Department of Education policy that states one cannot willfully or maliciously destroy, damage, deface, or otherwise injure real or personal property without the consent of the owner, Shoop says that his son and others who had their lockers cut and left open are victims of a crime.

According to Lee County Schools Public Information Officer Sharon Spence, Southern Lee football players were given a deadline to turn in football-related equipment back to the school. Spence says that after repeated announcements for the return of the equipment, those students who had failed to do so had their lockers opened in order to search for the football-related items.

Spence says though that Blade Shoop, who is a current member of the wrestling team, had his locker opened mistakenly and that Lee County Schools has reimbursed the Shoops and admits a mistake was made.

“The staff has admitted that it made a mistake,” Spence said. “We apologized. We reimbursed the family and admit that a mistake was made because the student was on the wrestling team.”

Lee County Schools has a policy regarding the search of a student’s personal property and maintains that a search can be conducted “whenever a school authority has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating a law or school rule.”

But Thomas Shoop says that the incident was not reported to the Southern Lee administration and that Principal Rob Dietrich only became aware of it after Shoop had requested a meeting with the principal by sending an invoice demanding payment for vandalized or stolen articles. Shoop says he learned of the incident after having been told of it by his son.

Shoop, who says he has been paid in full the $153.50 he requested in his invoice, believes his son may have been singled out because of concerns he and others have brought to the Southern Lee administration over the treatment of players by Maczko.

Near the end of the 2008 football season, Shoop says he and other parents of Cavaliers football players discussed putting together a petition to give to the school’s administration detailing their concerns of verbal abuse and bullying by Maczko. Shoop says he drafted the petition but did not circulate it. He says he doesn’t know how many signatures are on the petition, but claims they fill up “two pages worth.”

The petition, in a copy obtained by The Herald, states that the signed “are extremely concerned about the teaching, coaching and negative leadership of the current head football coach, Bill Maczko. There is ample reason to question Coach Maczko’s temperament, behavior, conduct and judgment. His tirades, screaming and belittling high-school level student-athletes have not gone unnoticed by parents and supporters, and are unacceptable. In spite of obvious warning signs of a major problem, it is somewhat troubling that Southern Lee High School has failed to confront Coach Maczko’s aberrant and destructive behavior.”

“It really got abusive,” Thomas Shoop said of Maczko. “There was profanity, name-calling — I mean, it was really a bullying, intimidating situation.”

Spence says that no bullying has been reported to the board.

“We have not heard anything to the level of bullying,” she said.

Shoop says that within “days” of turning the petition in to Dietrich, the incident with the lockers occurred, and believes that if Blade Shoop was singled out because of his father’s involvement with the petition, that a Lee County Schools policy against retaliation by an employee following the report of a violation of federal, state or local law, regulation or public policy then was violated.

“I presented (the petition) to Mr. Dietrich as a courtesy copy, kind of a read-ahead, and what transpired next was actually an escalation of abuse teetering on whistle-blower reprisal and, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, a violent crime against my child,” Thomas Shoop said.

Shoop says that he does not know who cut the locks, but knows the locker room incident was witnessed by a varsity player. Shoop did not name the player.

Dietrich and Southern Lee Athletic Director Cletis Gore did not comment on Shoop’s allegations that a crime occurred or concerns about abuse and directed questions to the school system’s central office.

Maczko also had no comment on either the locks being cut or the charges of verbal abuse. He also directed all questions to the central office.

Thomas Shoop says that he intends to address the board because a violent act occurred against his son on school property.

“The facts are that the Lee County board has a policy that defines bullying, that the State Board of Education mandates that teachers adhere to a Code of Ethics and that the vandalism that occurred on the 13th is identified by the U.S. Department of Education as a violent crime,” Shoop said. “And I’m just going to leave it in the board’s hands to do what they will.”

“You have to believe that one of two things occurred: either anyone can walk around Southern Lee High School with bolt-cutters unchallenged, or school employees have unrestricted access to bolt-cutters,“ Shoop added. “One scenario is not any better than the other. But the logical conclusion is why is Southern Lee High School tolerating this kind of vandalism, bullying and violence and unethical behavior? And why has it gone unreported? The failure to report a crime is a crime.”

Spence says that Thomas Shoop will be given an opportunity to speak to the board and is on tonight’s agenda to make his presentation.

“The board and staff will be listening on Tuesday,” she said.

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February 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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