Indiana high school track coaches on leave after 'bear crawl' punishment
Four Cascade High School track coaches are on administrative leave and are being urged by the school to resign after students said they were forced to do bear crawls around the track for missing practice.
The punishment involved several students on the boys' and girls' track team. They reportedly missed practice for various reasons, including having to attend a meeting related to the high school's prom.
"Some missed because they had to do stuff for prom. One kid had a basketball game. One girl had a doctor's appointment and she was told she had to do four laps," said one of the students.
Photos of the students' hands after the incident show numerous large blisters, some of them ruptured.
One 14-year-old student broke down crying as she told Eyewitness News what happened.
"I had two laps to do," she said before breaking off.
Their coaches ordered them to do backwards bear crawls around the track.
"They were all black, and these were really red and they hurt even right now," said one student, referring to her blistered hands.
The student, a member of the high school's varsity track team said the blisters and bruises are painful, but the memory of how she got them is worse.
"They told us to finish two laps and that was all we had to do," said the student.
The student wasn't talking about running laps around the school's track. She was talking about something called "bear crawling."
"You get on all fours and you walk like this," said Matt Shepard, who demonstrated what "bear crawling" looked like.
The punishments were handed down after just 12 track students showed up for practice.
Students said four varsity track coaches made several of them bear crawl around the track as a punishment for missing practice last Friday.
"It's not a fun practice. That's why it's a punishment," said Shepard.
Shepard missed practice for a prom meeting. He didn't have the blisters some students did.
"It's a hard workout and they didn't intend for us to get hurt," said Shepard.
That's why Shepard and other track members said they're disgusted all four coaches have been placed on paid leave and have been asked to resign their coaching positions.
"We didn't get asked how we felt about it and that's who they should be asking is the athletes who had to do the punishment," said Shepard.
"I don't think there's a single person on this track team that says I want them fired. We all care because they're a part of us," said fellow track team member Regina Solik.
Parent Tammy Rults, though, said she didn't share that sentiment.
"Honestly, I'd like to see the coaches do exactly what they had to do. You know? And lose their job," said Rults.
The school district has contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jill Jay did not want to go on camera but told Eyewitness News that they are taking the incident very seriously.
She later issued this statement:
"Last night we became aware of an incident involving the boys' and girls' high school track team and inappropriate conduct by the team coaches. We immediately began an investigation and interviewed those involved. In addition, our office contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services. We sincerely apologize to the parents and assure them we do not condone, nor will we tolerate, this type of behavior from our school employees. We have requested that all four coaches resign from their coaching positions and they have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation."
The coaches got a call from district headquarters telling them to stay home. Now, those four coaches are on administrative leave, suspended because of the injuries suffered by some of the track students.
"I think we should have just had to run," said one of the injured students.
Most of the track team members, though, said they stand by the same coaches who doled out a painful punishment.
"These coaches care about us so much. They didn't intend for this at all," said Solik.
Students also said the move to remove the coaches would seriously affect their performance at an upcoming track conference and sectionals.
As the school district notifies all parents about the incident, one of the students and her mother left for a doctor's appointment for a thorough examination.
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