RINGLING, Okla. (KFOR) – As of Wednesday afternoon, the Ringling High School Principal/Head Football Coach has been put on paid administrative leave pending investigations into allegations of verbal abuse and bullying.
Parent concerns revolving around Philip Koons were brought up in the Ringling School Board meeting Feb. 13.
“This man’s abusive power reeks psychological torture on these students. For two years, my son has begged us to stay quiet for fear of retaliation especially after having to do the naked up downs,” said a mom.
The “up downs” are referring to burpees where a person jumps up and then jumps down into a push-up before jumping back up for another.
The mom also claims Koons called her son derogatory names like “p***y”.
Despite the allegations, the school voted 5-0 to renew Koons’ contract on Feb. 13.
News 4 stopped by the Ringling Police Department Wednesday afternoon.
The Police Chief wasn’t able to share much information as the investigation has been turned over to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.
However, he did say once they learned about the allegations against Koons following the school board meeting, they requested assistance from OSBI Feb. 15.
The Ringling Police Chief told KFOR the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting a separate investigation for three weeks prior to him finding out about the situation.
He said the JCSO didn’t turn over their investigation or request OSBI until Feb. 17.
“Their [Ringling Public Schools] policy says they suspend and investigate and they failed to follow their own policy. They could have if they were so adamant that he’s done nothing. Why not investigate and clear his name?,” said Joel Skip Mitchell.
Mitchell created a Facebook page called Ringling School Patrons Demanding Answers. The page currently has 998 followers.
He said he has created similar pages for other towns and cities who are in the same boat.
He told KFOR he created the page to help be a voice for those families affected by these accusations.
“Normally when I come into a town, you have to literally pry the information out of people. This is the first time when it’s full and it flowed freely. It’s like they were looking for someone that could pull the plug,” added Mitchell.
Along with current allegations of being forced to exercise while naked in front of Koons, the Oklahoma NAACP wrote in a press release Tuesday afternoon Koons has also used “racial slurs about players and referees.”
Students have allegedly told the Oklahoma NAACP Koons would name plays derogatory terms and made “monkey noises.”
“Ringling School District has shown a consistent and continuous pattern of egregious indifference to the harassment of students on the basis of their race, color, national origin, and sex in violation of their duty under federal law,” stated the Oklahoma NAACP. “Given the documentation of the complaints, this type of action will hurt the students’ mental health as well as physical health. This is very damaging.”
This isn’t the first time Koons has been under the microscope of scrutiny though.
News 4 first reported on Koons in 2013 when he coached football at Tuttle.
A family told KFOR Koons called their son derogatory names such as p***y and c**t.
School administrators said they spoke with Koons when those allegations were brought forward.
After two meetings, school administrators said then they believed the issue was resolved.
Koons then went to coach football in Clinton in 2016.
According to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, students said Koons pulled out his genitalia to players.
“Boys, this is a d**k. You gotta have one of these to play football,” the OCPA wrote players said.
OCPA stated Koons resigned three games into that season.
“The Ringling School Board chose to continue to expose kids to abuse and neglect and harm and not look into it,” said Mitchell.
Cameron Spradling and Tod Mercer are now legally representing seven to 10 former and current Ringling students who claim to have fallen victim to Koons.
“We are preparing a Complaint to be filed in Federal Court in Oklahoma City. We are delayed in that process because more victims are coming forth on a daily basis. These victims are cooperating with the OSBI and the OSDE investigations,” Spradling and Mercer told KFOR in a statement.
Spradling and Mercer added the duty of reporting is a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility.
“We strongly urge that if you have witnessed or suspected abuse of students or athletes by Coach Koons at Tuttle, Clinton, Marlow or Ringling that you immediately communicate with the OSBI at 1-800-522-8017,” they stated.
Mitchell wants those victims who have yet to come forward to understand they’re safe and will be taken care of if they report it.
A friend of Koons’ called News 4 Wednesday morning to share the stories floating around about Koons aren’t true.
He declined an on-camera interview, but told KFOR over the phone Koons is a “great coach.”
He added any discipline given to Koons’ players would make them better in the long run.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Oklahoma NAACP called on State Superintendent Ryan Walters to suspend Koons with pay pending further investigation.
In a late afternoon statement to KFOR, Walters said, “Phil Koons of Ringling Public Schools has officially been put on paid administrative leave while an ongoing criminal investigation about the allegations and concerns brought against him is completed. We will continue to monitor the investigation as we have since the beginning, and support Superintendent Kent Southward’s decision.”
Mitchell said he’s hoping to take the next step of holding the school district accountable.
The Oklahoma NAACP is calling for a civil rights investigation into the Ringling Public Schools district.
“We want this to go through the legal system. We want it to be done properly,” explained Mitchell.
News 4 requested to speak with the families affected, but Mercer said those families been receiving threats the last few days for speaking out.
For the time being, Mercer and Spradling say the families are not able to talk on-camera because of the threats.
News 4 has reached out to the school district, but haven’t heard back.
This is a developing story.