Parents of two Bethel Park High School baseball players told the school board May 28 they believe the program fosters a culture of harassment and bullying and it starts with the head coach.
Kelly Tatum said her son, a senior, endured insults, foul language and harassment from the coaches before he quit the team just prior to its playoff run. Players continued the harassment in person and through text messages after he quit, prompting the family to consider skipping several celebrations for seniors, including graduation.
She urged the board to fire the head coach of the varsity team, Tony Fisher.
Carrie Geddes said her son, a freshman, spoke up about the harassment and was punished for it, prompting him to quit the team as well.
“Something needs to change so these kids can be proud to be a Bethel Park Black Hawk again,” Geddes said.
Chuck Tatum said he’s proud of both boys for their willingness to take a stand against harassment, but the situation should have been stopped long ago.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “I hope it’s not happening in other sports.”
Board members said they could not comment on personnel matters, but Director Ken Nagel said all extra-curricular activities “should be focused on building teamwork and character” and if any program falls short of that goal, the problems should be rectified.
Fisher denied the allegations being made against his program.
“The coaching staff does the best we can to foster a ‘team-first’ mentality,” Fisher said. “We want all players to feel that they play a role in the team’s success. Not every role is the same, but every role is important. We hope that we mold young boys into men upon graduating from our program. This season in particular we witnessed firsthand the power of team unity, with our players rallying around a teammate that had the most serious off-field challenges.”
“I am so proud of these young men this season,” he added, “I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be their coach.”
One member of the baseball team, a Bethel Park senior who wished to remain anonymous, said he also disagreed with the characterization of his team presented at the school board meeting. He said no bullying or harassment took place throughout the course of the season.
“It was just playful banter,” the student said. “It happened with the entire team.”
“I’ve never seen a team that has actually been so together,” he added. “It’s one guy for another. They played for each other.”