The fallout from dismissal of football coach continued Wednesday night during a meeting of the Clayton Board of Education.
The meeting—held in the Clayton High library in an effort to accommodate the expected crowd—featured a sea of blue and orange as students, parents and football players came out to ask for the board’s intervention on Horrell’s behalf.
Many of Horrell's supporters wore blue shirts stating “Bring Back Coach Horrell” in orange letters, and they jockeyed for position during the public comments portion of the meeting.
The district dismissed Horrell as head coach of the Clayton Greyhounds football team earlier this month after it said evidence had surfaced that Horrell violated by-laws of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA). He will continue teaching.
KSDK reported that the district said it had videotaped evidence of Horrell leading workouts with eighth-graders from during the off-season. MSHSAA by-laws state that Horrell cannot interact with players until after they have finished their eighth-grade year.
The district reported the violations to MSHSAA directly, and the decision to dismiss Horrell from his coaching duties came from within the district and the administration.
One parent told the board that MSHSAA regulations state eighth-graders who worked out with Horrell are subject to ineligibility for 365 days from the date of the offense. That would effectively prevent them from playing football as freshmen.
It isn't the first time students have led a protest over Horrell’s dismissal. .
Parents and students together spoke out Wednesday night to urge the board to reconsider the administration’s decision.
“I know it’s a huge move for you to circumvent the administration,” said William Lieberman, a parent in attendance, in addressing the board. “But I urge you to reconsider.”
The microphone passed from one concerned supporter to another for the better part of an hour. Thunderous applause followed many of the comments.
“We all have a responsibility to do what is right by our students and children, and I don’t see how removing Coach Horrell would be meeting that responsibility,” said Lori Elliot, another parent.
The central theme of those who spoke: Think about the students and what Horrell meant as a coach in Clayton.
“This decision is crucial today,” said Nicole Jenkins, a parent and supporter. “I see all these students back here. They look up to him. He looks out for them. You’re letting them down if you let Horrell go.”
The board does not typically address the audience following public comments, but a shout from students in attendance following the comments prompted board President Sonny Buttar to make a statement.
“This decision did not come about overnight,” she said. “There was a lot of debate over what the best course of action would be. This was not an off-the-cuff decision.”
But she did add that an appeal over the eligibility of the students implicated would be heard June 15.
As the crowd filed out, many stopped to share a word with Horrell or to embrace him. Horrell shared a private moment with a group of his former players as well, telling them that he wanted them to remain committed and that he was proud to have been their coach.
Horrell declined to comment on the dismissal to the press, simply saying that he looks forward to continuing to teach students at Clayton High.
In other action, the board:
- Heard a presentation on the current state of health and physical education in the district. They discussed the idea of a gifted physical education program, in which gifted students would participate in activities aimed at also exercising the brain. They also spoke about state standards for physical education and incentives to promote healthy eating and student transportation to school by walking and biking.
- Dottie Barbeau, the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, fielded questions alongside gifted education instructors following a presentation to the board. Board members questioned who has primary discretion over the gifted education programs. Members said they feel the program has no cohesiveness, particularly between the elementary schools and the middle school. Superintendent Mary Herrmann told the board she would sit down with the instructors and put together a plan to address the board’s concerns.
- Barbeau stuck around with Heidi Shepard, the district’s math coordinator, to answer questions and discuss possible alterations to . Board members said they wanted to stress the importance of homework—particularly worksheets—in helping students fully grasp material. They also want to emphasize professional development for all teachers, whether through workshops or the Internet. The board unanimously voted to approve the document and to look toward the next step of implementing the changes.