SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Four Evangel Christian Academy football players were expelled Wednesday following an alleged bullying incident over the Thanksgiving weekend while the team was in Baton Rouge for a game.
The investigation into the alleged incident of bullying involved a teen who has autism.
KTAL spoke with three of the player and their parents, who said they were shocked by the news.
“We need some answers,” said one of the parents, who did not want to be identified. “We don’t even know why our kids are getting expelled. You called us over the phone instead of calling us in and telling us, ‘Hey, these accusations have been made, we need to figure out what’s happening.'”
The parents said none of them were notified before the school took disciplinary action.
“Who investigated? Why weren’t we involved? Why weren’t we informed? The parent said the school’s principal told her, “‘Well the coach and whoever else did the investigation and the investigation is final and we’ve come up with our final decision.'”
For their part, the players say they were not involved in the incident, but that they did witness the wrongdoing.
“All this stuff has been going on,” recalled one player. “We got a noise complaint about our room but it wasn’t our room.”
Instead, they say they heard loud noises coming from the room across the hall.
“We went over there and I knocked on the door but they didn’t want to answer. It was way more people than it was supposed to be and it was late at night,” another player said.
“In the background, it was a dude telling somebody else to get on his knees and to open up his mouth. The dude had just got out of the shower and only had a towel around him.”
“Yeah I felt bad for him but I am not the type of person, he was autistic, but I should have did something about it. But I didn’t want to wake the coaches up and they would be like ‘Why are we all horseplaying?’ Because it was going to turn into something we didn’t want,” one of the expelled players explained.
“I don’t know how severe his autism is, but that’s not okay, that’s almost sexual assault,” said one player’s mother. “I feel like the four young men that got expelled may have saved him.”
“We released students from our school that we love, but they crossed the Evangel line with their behavior,” said a statement provided to KTAL by school principal Stacie Rathbun. “We have a strict policy when it comes to bullying. I’m sure that seems harsh to the parents of the disciplined students. I understand that, but it’s the Evangel way. We do not want any student here to feel uncomfortable in their space because of intimidation by another student.”
The players and parents said this has affected them mentally and could impact their athletic future.
“I’ve been stressed and stuff, you know, because that was a good school. I had good grades. I was just now bettering myself,” said one of the players.
“I mean it is what it is, I can’t change it but I feel like it could have been a certain way to do it,” said another.
“I’m trying to figure out what school he’s going to or what’s going on. And I’m highly upset because my son was one of the ones who has gotten violated,” one of the moms said.
The parents say they just want answers and clarity, but they are still trying to decide how best to move forward in getting them.
“I hope they get to play football next year,” one mother said while tearing up.
“Put your feet in our shoes and see what we are going through with our children.”
KTAL has reached out to the school after speaking with the parents to ask why other students allegedly involved were not disciplined. They have yet to respond.