Family of ex-Kingfisher football player suing district share details | News

ENID, Oklahoma— Parents of a former Kingfisher High School football player who is suing the district for alleged abuse say their son once begged them not to report the incidents for fear of retaliation from classmates and friends. coaches.

The parents of John Doe No. 1 (whose legal anonymity was granted under a court order) say they had no knowledge of the incidents with their son for a long time.

“(Doe) tried very, very hard to hide it from us for a long period of time, and he managed to do it,” his father told the News & Eagle last week. “But eventually the evidence became overwhelming that we knew something was wrong.”

Asked about the multiple bruises all over his body – which Doe’s father said should be avoided with pads – Doe, then 15, told them: “It’s just football.”

But after weeks of questioning him about the injuries, Doe’s father said his son collapsed sobbing, beginning to reveal some of the near-daily beatings, whippings, practice drills and other harassment.

He said his son begged them not to share the information because he was afraid of what would happen to him at school.

His father also said that Doe loved football and thought his chances of playing on the pitch would be gone if he brought anything back, telling them, “It’ll get better.”

The parents said they would not learn the full extent of the alleged abuse until Doe graduated from Kingfisher High School last year.

“My mom’s heart was hurt, that’s for sure,” Doe’s mother said. “It’s…it’s been difficult. And I have a lot of anger… towards our school system.

On July 29, 2021, Doe filed a lawsuit in Kingfisher County District Court against Kingfisher Public Schools, longtime high school head football coach Jeff Myers, and current and former assistant coaches Derek Patterson, Blake Eaton and Micah Nall.

Following a private investigation with Doe’s attorney, the January motion filing includes approximately 25 statements from current and former players, students and parents regarding alleged incidents dating back to 2008.

Two audio recordings of another student’s Snapchat threats against Doe and his mother are part of the investigation.

“You have a 15-year-old kid who has been…completely humiliated and belittled, and these upper classes are threatening to kill his mother, if he talks – he won’t talk, and he won’t want to report it,” he said. said Doe’s father.

Doe, now in college, said he didn’t think he would lose as many friendships as he had since filing the lawsuit.

“I thought everyone would support me and be on my side because of what I’ve been through,” he said. “It made me stronger and (showed me) that you have to choose your friends carefully.”

Doe’s legal dispute with the district and his former coaches works its way through the federal district court system, as Doe alleges constitutional and federal Title IX violations.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the State Department of Education are investigating Kingfisher’s football program.

Prior to trial, Doe’s father said he spoke with Myers twice while Doe was in high school, as well as with Kingfisher’s new superintendent about the alleged abuse.

Superintendent Daniel Craig, who took office last July, allegedly told Doe’s father, “If you want the truth out, you’re going to have to sue us,” according to a petition.

Shortly after, Doe and his family met with Oklahoma City attorney Cameron Spradling and filed a lawsuit, a week before Doe’s 19th birthday.

Her father said they received no communication from the school district for the next five and a half months, until the original petition was amended in January earlier this year.

Doe’s father said Kingfisher Public Schools was also given a 30-day window to respond to a $1.5 million settlement offer, which he said was not granted without any communication even after the granting of another 30-day extension.

The board unanimously rejected the offer at a meeting last week, with school officials giving no reason why they turned it down.

“(We have) made every effort to resolve this issue without going down the path it has gone down now, which is press, humiliation and embarrassment to the community,” Doe’s father said. “But I feel very, very strongly that we did our part to try to get them to talk to us and listen to us, and they just refused.”

Doe’s father said he did not claim that Myers abused all of the boys who participated in the football program.

“Our point is that there are a handful of kids Myers would target,” Doe’s father said. “It just so happens that (Doe) had the worst of it.”

Doe’s father said the family did not know why Myers allegedly targeted their son, while saying the alleged abuse did not occur on other programs.

However, a former Myers high school student also alleges sexual harassment beyond the football team as early as 2005.

Maleah Ashcraft told the News & Eagle last week that she suffered daily verbal abuse from Myers while in her science class when Ashcraft was 16 or 17.

She said the teacher would use a sexualized nickname towards her in class and in the hallway.

She also said that she thinks her bullying trickled down to the football team and after a while some players started to treat her differently.

Ashcraft said Myers’ comments angered her, but she was confused because she respected the authority of educators like her mother, a former KPS teacher.

Eventually, Ashcraft said she finally had enough and stood up to him after he used the nickname during class roll call.

Jeff Myers, Kingfishers Head Coach

She said Myers told her to get out of the classroom and locked the door as she left. She sat in the hallway for several minutes until the then high school principal passed by.

The principal took her to the library, where she told him what had happened and that she “couldn’t handle it anymore,” Ashcraft said.

Ashcraft, who previously worked with the Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office, was later placed in the alternative school. At the time, she said she was grateful to be out of the harsh environment.

She claimed Myers also made offensive remarks to another girl in the class and said he had “verbally degraded” some of his friends who were on the football team in the mid-2000s to the point that they resigned.

Ashcraft said she opened up about her alleged incidents with Myers on a social media post after allegations were made by then-assistant coach Nall allowing child abuse.

In May 2021, Nall pleaded guilty to obstructing and delaying a police officer during the investigation. Nall received a one-year suspended sentence, a $200 fine, and was barred from coaching in a school-sponsored sport for a year. He resigned from Kingfisher Public Schools a month later.

Ashcraft said she wanted to come forward to validate what Doe and other players have claimed happened and to encourage others who may have had or still fear to speak up.

“I’m absolutely aware that my situation pales in comparison to what these boys have been through recently,” Ashcraft said. “The only reason I’m doing this is because I feel like God put it on my heart to stand up for them…so they know there’s an adult out there who’s willing to stand up for themselves. fight for them.”

The News & Eagle reached out to Myers on Monday night for comment, but did not hear back by press time.

Former Kingfisher superintendent Jason Sternberger, who took over as superintendent of nearby Hennessey Public Schools in the spring of 2021, declined to comment to the News & Eagle on Monday on his decade leading Kingfisher. Sternberger, whose three sons also attended or witnessed Kingfisher, said he would not comment publicly on whether he should become involved in the ongoing case.

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