RINGLING, Okla. (KFOR) – Despite allegations of verbal abuse, an ongoing state investigation and a looming lawsuit on the horizon, Philip Koons is said to be reinstated as the Ringling High School Principal and head football coach as of June 1.
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.
“They feel like they’ve come forward and done what they’re supposed to do to report this type of abuse. And the adults in the room aren’t paying any attention,” said one of the attorneys representing 10-11 victims in this case, Tod Mercer.
On February 22, the Oklahoma State Department of Education told News 4 Koons was officially placed on leave.
“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,” said State Superintendent Ryan Walters.
Mercer told KFOR Friday morning, the OSBI is still actively investigating Koons.
News 4 has confirmed with the OSBI there is an ongoing investigation in Ringling, but they would not release any further information than that.
In this same time, two Ringling faculty members have come forward, claiming the district has retaliated against them for standing with the alleged victims in this case.
Despite the investigation, one of Mercer’s clients received confirmation from a Ringling Public Schools’ teacher that Superintendent Kent Southward announced to staff during a recent luncheon Koons would be reinstated as the High School’s Principal and football coach as of June 1.
“It really didn’t surprise me. You know, the lack of action by the State Department of Education here and not so much the OSBI, but the lack of action by the State Department of Education and Ryan Walters. That’s what caused this, because in a normal case, as soon as this thing was reported, the State Department would have launched an investigation and they would have come up with these findings of fact, which, you know, there’s at least ten witnesses and there’s more witnesses out there, but there’s at least ten victims that, you know, when you have that many victims, it’s hard to dispute it,” said Mercer. “You need to wash out those allegations of abuse before you move on and act like nothing’s wrong.”
Mercer said very few of his clients will be impacted by Koons’ return.
“Most of them are boys that have graduated just recently or have moved on to other schools or something else, but there are some still there,” added Mercer.
Mercer said his clients and their families feel as if the state isn’t doing anything to support them or resolve this issue at hand.
“Not a very good feeling for parents of people that have been abused,” stated Mercer.
News 4 reached out to Supt. Walters’ office for comment Friday morning.
They say, “SDE is investigating the alleged comments.”
As of Friday afternoon, Koons is listed as Ringling High School’s current Principal on the district’s website.
Mercer’s other concern is Koons’ teaching license.
As of Friday afternoon, Koons still has a teaching license, according to the State Department of Education’s website.
“How ironic is it? Right? [Supt. Walters] is trying to take that teacher’s license for providing a link to a library that really didn’t amount to anything and yet he won’t go after these abusers and molesters. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” stated Mercer. “The public would love it if he was coming after these molesters and these abusers. But for some reason, he’s more concerned about, you know, banning books and going after the alternative lifestyle community. You know, I just don’t get it.”
Mercer and his co-counsel, Cameron Spradling have been working to file a lawsuit against Koons.
Mercer has told KFOR in previous interviews, they have been waiting for the OSBI to finish their investigation before filing.
“Regardless of whether or not the OSBI has completed their investigation or not. We can’t wait any longer with this type of development,” said Mercer. “We’ll probably have a lawsuit on file not long from now.”
News 4 asked Mercer if he’s able to fight the decision on bringing Koons back. He said he could file a complaint with the OSDE and possibly file a lawsuit, but he doesn’t think it would change anything.
News 4 has tried reaching out to the school district and the district’s attorneys, but have not heard back yet.