A beloved former head coach of the King George High softball team told School Board members that her principles and a lack of accountability for a student–athlete who broke a school rule were the reasons for her recent resignation.
“I can’t stand up and explain the rules at the beginning of each season when I know, and now the players know, that the rules may or may not be enforced,” Renee Parker said. “I resigned because of my principles and because those in position to hold student–athletes to the standards set before them have failed them.”
Parker said in an email prior to Monday’s meeting that she was shown a screenshot of a photo posted on social media of a student–athlete holding a can of beer at a party. Parker said she informed the student’s parents that the consequence for drinking is dismissal from the team, but school administrators decreased the punishment to a five-game suspension after one of the student’s parents spoke to the principal.
Parker submitted her resignation last Thursday and it was effective Friday immediately following the softball game against Brooke Point. The players dedicated the game to Parker and many in the crowd displayed signs of support for the coach.
Parker wrote in an email that the student did not turn in a signature page for the King George High School Athletics Handbook, which states “any use or possession of Alcohol/Drugs/Tobacco products will result in dismissal from the team.” Parker said the student and one of her parents did sign the Softball Handbook that states “drinking” results in dismissal from the team.
Two King George residents spoke in support of Parker during Monday night’s meeting.
Linda Sheehan is a parent who volunteers with a number of athletic programs in the district. She said the athletic handbooks at the middle school and high school should mirror one another, along with the team rules handbooks.
“There should be no gray [area],” Sheehan said.
Student–athletes are leaders in the school and in the community, she said.
“The conduct of athletes representing either King George Middle School or King George High School is to be above reproach, even if the behavior of others is not,” she said.
Parker said in an email that the reasons she was given for the student receiving a suspension rather than dismissal were that the student was holding the can, not drinking from it, and that many other students were also at the party.
Parker told the School Board: “I ask you to please remind your administrations that they are allowed to tell a parent … ‘We are aware that there are almost always other students involved when a student is caught breaking the rules’ and still enforce the policy.”
Parker told the School Board it is a “slap in the face to every coach in the system when the administration chooses not to stand behind them, especially when there is ample evidence supporting the accusation.”
Jill Wine, a King George schools employee and head volleyball coach at the high school, also spoke in support of Parker. Even though it saddens her, she said, she understands Parker’s decision to resign.
“As coaches, it is imperative that we have the support of [the] administration,” she said. “We cannot guide our athletes if we don’t hold them accountable.”
Wine recalled that when she was was a high school athlete, she reported her friend for drinking alcohol before a game.
“I lost a best friend and other friends, but I kept my integrity,” she said.
Parker said in her remarks to the board that students are sent a mixed message when some athletes are removed for infractions involving alcohol and others are not.
“The school system and your board should be entities who are 100 percent engaged in the effort to eradicate underage drinking,” Parker said.
Board members Kristin Tolliver, Tammy Indseth, Gayle Hock and T.C. Collins all thanked Parker for her years of service during the time for board members to share comments at the end of the meeting.
“I would like … to acknowledge the wealth of benefits that the community and the schools have reaped from Mrs. Parker’s contributions of time, energy and effort,” Hock said.
Indseth was the only board member who also specifically addressed the comments made that evening. She said the circumstances that led to Parker’s resignation were “unfortunate.”
“We just want to make sure things are better in the future,” Indseth said. “We’re going to try to look into things as Mrs. Sheehan has suggested.”
King George High Principal Jesse Boyd said in a phone conversation Tuesday that he cannot comment specifically on issues related to personnel matters or student discipline. He did say that he and everyone else at King George High appreciated Parker’s time as coach and all of her success.
“She will be missed by all,” Boyd said.