KINGFISHER, Okla. (KFOR) – It’s been nearly two years since a federal lawsuit was filed against Kingfisher Public Schools for allegedly condoning abusive behavior from their high school football coach. The State Department of Education and State Superintendent are now named in the ongoing lawsuit for not firing the coach.
News 4 will not name the Kingfisher High School football coach because he has yet to be arrested nor has he been criminally charged.
The lawsuit revolves around Mason Mecklenburg who used to play football at Kingfisher High School. He has since graduated.
Since the lawsuit was filed, several pieces of key evidence have surfaced, including a cell phone video of a locker room fight between players.
The fight is often referred to as ‘The Ring.’ Players would form a circle around two players who were reportedly forced to duke it out until someone couldn’t handle it any longer.
“The coaches knew about it, condoned it, encouraged it, bet on it… Even arranged the boxing and fighting matches in the ring,” said Mason’s dad, Justin Mecklenburg.
His son was allegedly forced to fight much bigger students. He was also shot at close range with a paint ball gun.
Another incident of alleged hazing left Mason with marks on his back. He claims other players would whip him with wet towels in the high school showers.
“Through Mason’s freshman year, he was repeatedly whipped and beaten to the point of bleeding multiple times,” said Justin.
Justin recalled his son also being sexually assaulted by other players. He said Mason was forced on to the ground in a “starfish” position by other players while another one would rub his genitals on Mason’s face.
“There are multiple statements where these players, these teammates of Mason’s made comments like one of them said, ‘If they did to me what they did to Mason, I would have killed myself,'” stated Justin.
Justin stated the Kingfisher High School football coach, who is still in charge of the team as of Thursday, knew about the incident. However, the coach allegedly told his players not to tell anyone about it in fear they might lose the opportunity to play their football season.
He stated there have been at least 27 statements taken from current and former Kingfisher High School football players about the abusive culture that has been ongoing since 2004.
Justin also claimed at least four sexual assaults amongst football players have happened since the coach in question took over. He recalled the one before his son’s being in 2015.
According to Justin, the sexual assaults were reported to then-Kingfisher Public Schools’ Superintendent Jason Sternberger but nothing ever came of it.
“He chose not to report it and not to document it and that just infuriates the hell out of me because had they reported or had they done something about the 2008 or the 2015 assault, it likely would not have happened to my kid,” said Justin.
Per the Kingfisher High School’s Staff page, the coach in question is still employed with the school district.
Without the termination of the coach, the Mecklenburg family is now going after the State Department of Education and State Superintendent Ryan Walters for not having taken action yet.
“Superintendent Walters is deeply concerned with all matters related to student health and safety. It is ridiculous that he is a named party in a lawsuit that alleges problems that far precede his term of office,” said OSDE Director of Communications, Dan Isett.
Attorneys for the Mecklenburg family say the students of Kingfisher Public Schools face a clear and present danger by allowing the coach to remain employed.
Therefore, attorneys are requesting the Oklahoma Supreme Court step in and terminate the coach’s employment immediately.
“[The coach] is one of KPS’s highest paid employees. KPS has never formally reprimanded [the coach] for his actions. KPS has never put [the coach] on leave. KPS has never initiated termination or disciplinary proceedings against [the coach]. In fact, KPS has done nothing to protect the minor students in its care, instead displaying deliberate indifference to the dangerous environment infecting Kingfisher High School and threatening the well being of its students,” the court filing reads.
Former Kingfisher Public Schools Board member, Jim Perdue said the coach should have been fired a long time ago.
“I’m probably not going to be the best witness for Kingfisher schools because this is one reason I ran for the school board was to get rid of this s**t and I said [the coach] should have been gone a long time ago,” said Perdue. “I had a couple teachers call me and they’re all in favor of everything and they’d like to help but they’re so worried about it being like that Ringling deal… we’ll be on the wrong side of the fence and lose their jobs.”
With the federal lawsuit, the Mecklenburg family and their attorneys are seeking two remedies: $10M and the firing of the coach.
“We’ll be f*****g broke and laying teachers off,” stated Perdue.
Justin said the firing of this coach is his number one ask.
“This is what he did. This is wrong. It’s unacceptable. Fire him. He does not deserve to be coaching our youth,” stated Justin. “They’re kids. They’re just freaking kids.”
The State Department of Education and Supt. Walters have until September 18 to respond to the federal filing.
All parties must present themselves at the Oklahoma Supreme Court on September 26 for oral presentation.
News 4 asked Isett if Supt. Walters plans to take action in regard to the coach’s employment, but never heard back. We’ve also reached out to the school district’s as well as the coach’s attorneys, but have not heard back from them either.