Forney school district superintendent Suzanne McWilliams sent a lengthy email to parents of Forney High School soccer players this week after five players were arrested Thursday on charges of sexual assault in an alleged hazing incident.
McWilliams said she gave "serious thought" to canceling the rest of the soccer season but ultimately decided that wouldn't be fair to players who weren't involved in the alleged hazing, according to the email, which was obtained by WFAA.
She also outlined new athletics protocol, including the requirement of a coach to be present any time student-athletes are in a locker room.
Jacob Fisher, 18, and four juveniles were the students arrested, according to the Kaufman County sheriff's department.
Here's the full letter McWilliams sent to parents:
Dear FHS Soccer Parents,
Setting all protocols aside, I am writing to you today to tell you first, I am heartsick to learn of the initial results of the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department’s investigation. Never would I have thought any of our students would engage in or be subject to the behaviors reported. These types of behaviors are definitely not in keeping with our FISD Code of Conduct for our students. I know, the media and the rumors surrounding this situation may have left you with many unanswered questions. I would like to be able to answer all of your questions, but unfortunately, I can’t for several reasons. When we turned this matter over to the Kaufman County Sheriff’s department we were immediately instructed to cease our investigation and not to talk to anyone about the matter. We have been waiting for them to complete their investigation before moving forward; however, it is still an ongoing investigation. The information we have received from the Sheriff’s department has been very limited. The District was not aware the students were to be taken into custody until the investigators showed up at the campus yesterday. Had the District administration been given notice of the Sheriff's Department’s intent to arrest FISD students, we would have requested that any arrest be conducted privately and with the least amount of disruption or distraction. The District has and will continue to cooperate with the Sheriff's Department; however, any request for specific information about the law enforcement investigation must be directed to the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department. In light of the ongoing investigation and student privacy laws, the District cannot provide details regarding this matter.
But here are some answers I can provide. You may be wondering if the soccer program at FHS will continue and if your child will be safe. So let me take this opportunity to give you a little more information in that area and assure you of the precautionary measures we have taken to heighten the security in all athletic programs.
I have given serious thought to canceling the boy’s soccer program at FHS in light of these recent events. As stated in our soccer handbook: “A student is not required to take part in athletics, nor is participation required for graduation; therefore, athletics is a privilege. Consequently, when high ideals and standards are violated, this privilege can be revoked.” However, after much prayer and consideration, I don’t believe it is fair to punish all the students for the actions of a few. So at this time, given the information I have now, we will continue the soccer program at FHS and the games will proceed as scheduled. As you were notified in an earlier email, we have heightened our security for the safety and peace of mind of our students as well as our parents. Today I want to share with you a list of some of the additional precautions given to our coaches to heighten our existing procedures:
· Coaches have been directed to ensure that the ongoing investigation is not discussed. We must honor the privacy of our student athletes.
· A coach will be posted inside every locker room whenever student athletes are inside the room. This also includes road games. If athlete(s) enter a locker room for any reason, a coach must be present at all times.
· All locker rooms must be kept locked at all times unless attended by a coach. Each head coach is responsible for making sure that their sport’s locker room is locked.
· All facilities (training room, gyms, indoor facility, etc.) will be locked down at all times and students will not be permitted in those areas without supervision.
· 2 coaches will be present on buses when players are present. One will drive and the other will sit in the back of the bus to monitor athletes at all times. The mandatory seating charts for each trip must be followed.
· Any coach failing to comply with these requirements will be disciplined accordingly.
The boy’s soccer handbook that was given to each player and parent and detailed by coaches in the preseason meetings each year states: “High academic achievement and excellent conduct within the classroom and the community are required of each Forney High School soccer team member.” Our Forney ISD Extracurricular Code of Conduct specifically addresses these expectations as well. Certainly, the reported behaviors are not in keeping with these expectations.
I want to thank our coaches for their love and dedication to our athletes. They hold high expectation not only for themselves but also for the athletes in their programs. We have and will continue to create an environment to help our athletes learn, grow, and experience success.
As an educator and parent, I want to ensure you that I am heartbroken for all of our students, staff, and families having to work through this difficult situation. We love our students, and their safety and well-being is our top priority. Therefore, we would like to encourage any students struggling with this situation to seek guidance from one of our counselors or the Kaufman County Children's Advocacy Center. We will continue to keep all of our Forney ISD family in our thoughts and prayers as we work through this situation together.
Superintendent of Schools