Southside refutes student’s abuse claim about coach - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Southside refutes student’s abuse claim about coach

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Source: Howard Family Source: Howard Family

SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) – An Independence County family is calling on the Southside School District to fire one of its coaches.

The Howard family claims the coach recently made their daughter run barefooted on a hot track, causing her to get blisters on her feet. The superintendent, however, is refuting those claims.

"My feet are really sore, and every time I put pressure on them, they really burn and they get irritated," said Lexie Howard, a seventh grade student at Southside.

Lexie says she's supposed to stay off her feet after getting painful blisters on them.

"She was on the floor crying when she got home," said Pam Howard, Lexie's mom. "She literally had to crawl to the bathroom and back because she couldn't walk."

Pam says she took her daughter to the emergency room to get some relief.

"[The doctors] said that there's really nothing they could do as far as blisters except just stay off them," Pam said.

Lexie apparently got the blisters Thursday, May 9, during a physical fitness test at school. She says she wore sandals that day, but was apparently unaware that her P.E. class would have to run a mile under 15 minutes.

"Me and three other girls, [we] had to run it barefoot because one girl said, ‘Hey, what about people who are wearing flip flops?'" Lexie said. "[The coach] said just take them off, that way we didn't trip and that's what we did."

Lexie says the track around the football field was so hot that she began to feel pain on her bare feet by the third lap. She claims the coach sent her to the nurse when she finished because she kept complaining her feet hurt.

"To us, this is abuse," Pam said. "It's child abuse."

The school learned about Lexie's injuries only when the Independence County sheriff called the superintendent, saying her family had filed a police report.

"In my opinion, there's nothing to this whatsoever," Superintendent Roger Rich said.

Rich says he has proven no wrongdoing. He has reportedly talked about the allegations to the coach, who told him the girls chose to run without shoes.

"We had some walk on the track. We had some walking on the turf and walking in tennis shoes, flip-flops, boots – [shoes] of all kinds," Rich said. "From what I've been told and what I believe, no one was asked to remove their shoes to be able to fulfill the expectation of that day."

The coach also claims the class knew about the mile-long run well in advance because they had been training for weeks. Lexie says her P.E. class would walk one or two laps every day, but contends she did not know when the school had scheduled the timed running test.

"We can resolve a lot of issues by sitting down, talking about those things here at school," the superintendent said. "Most of the time, we can come to a resolve. That's my only disappointment in this case. We'll never harm a child purposefully, and I don't believe that was the case in this instance."

Despite the school's internal investigation, the Howard family would still like to see the coach fired, but the superintendent says that's not going to happen.

"We've done our investigation here within our school district," Rich said. "My investigation's complete. I've found no wrongdoing by the individual."

Rich plans to meet with the family Monday evening to try and reach a resolution.

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