Southside refutes student’s abuse claim about coach

Source: Howard Family
Source: Howard Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Me and three other girls, [we] had to run it barefootbecause 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 andthat's what we did."

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

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

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

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

Rich says he has proven no wrongdoing. He has reportedlytalked about the allegations to the coach, who told him the girls chose to runwithout shoes.

"We had some walk on the track. We had some walking on theturf 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 toremove their shoes to be able to fulfill the expectation of that day."

The coach also claims the class knew about the mile-long runwell 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 theschool had scheduled the timed running test.

"We can resolve a lot of issues by sitting down, talkingabout 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'llnever harm a child purposefully, and I don't believe that was the case in thisinstance."

Despite the school's internal investigation, the Howardfamily would still like to see the coach fired, but the superintendent saysthat's not going to happen.

"We've done our investigation here within our schooldistrict," Rich said. "My investigation's complete. I've found no wrongdoing bythe individual."

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

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