Public speaks up for coaches, students

Satchell Roller, 14, of Toms Brook, addresses the Shenandoah County School Board about the December bus incident at Thursday night's meeting in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Community members voiced their concerns to county School Board members and a crowd wearing purple Thursday night about the handling of the investigations into an incident on a school bus returning from West Virginia with the Strasburg High School boys’ junior varsity and varsity basketball teams and their coaches last December.

Satchel Roller, a freshman at Strasburg High School, spoke about how he has been falsely victimized.

“I was falsely identified as a victim in the Strasburg High School Title IX report,” Satchel said. “I never felt like a victim, and I never was a victim.

“I was lied to, my parents were lied to and our community was lied to,” he said.

After the bus incident was reported to police in January, the school system, as required by federal Title IX law,  hired an attorney to investigate.  The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and county commonwealth’s attorney’s office also investigated the incident and seven students were charged with assault or battery by mob.  Those students, who were also suspended from school, had court hearings on Thursday.  The outcome of those hearings were not made public.

Jill Kupeski, of Strasburg, chastises Shenandoah County School Board members at Thursday's meeting. Rich Cooley/Daily

The School Board also recently terminated coaching and extracurricular activity contracts of four employees as a result of the bus incident, according to schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley.  The Frederick County Department of Social Services also investigated the incident and has cleared the coaches.

Listen to audio of Thursday night’s Shenandoah County School Board meeting:

Riley McDonald, a community member, said he doesn’t agree with how the coaches have been treated.

“Do I agree with the kids being charged with their actions? Yes, just like I would agree with charges placed on myself if I had broken the law,” he said. “What I don’t agree with is terminating three coaches because of certain student athletes’ poor decision making.”

Susan Scott, a parent from Strasburg, said the voices of the parents have not been heard.

“We have been facing a lot of skepticism, backlash and unbearable accusations. We have had our words twisted and our stories embellished by the Title IX investigator and we have been ignored by you the board,” she said.

“Tonight we stand here, we are proud to be a Ram. We are proud to bleed purple. And we are proud to support our coaches, teachers and all our athletes,” she said.

Jill Kupeski, of Strasburg, was the last speaker to address the bus incident,  saying “Wake up Shenandoah County.”

“I am appalled at the School Board’s continued missteps in regards to the alleged incident on the Strasburg team bus in December,” she said. “Removing dedicated coaches found innocent of any wrongdoing will certainly affect future staff participation in extracurricular activities for our students.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com