By Pat Maurer
Rick P. Onstott, the parent of one of Clare’s graduates this year, has been banned from attending any sports functions at the schools for a year.
Onstott was at the Clare Board of Education meeting Monday evening to ask the board to lift the ban. He read a statement to the board. “I have been involved with Clare Schools for 17 years,” he wrote, “both my son and daughter attended Clare Schools from K-12 and not once have I ever had a problem with any of the school policies or procedures – nor have I ever had a problem with a staff member or coach until very recently. I feel the ban was quite a severe punishment for someone who has never even received any sort of a warning from the schools.”
He said the incident that sparked the ban didn’t even happen on school property, but at a local restaurant in March. “I had been unhappy about the coaching of the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team…throughout the season. I said one word, “Karma,” to the coach in the lobby of the Doherty.”
He said the coach “yelled” at him and shoved him and that the coaches wife also “started yelling inappropriate things” about his family.
Onstott said after the incident he received a letter stating he was banned from the school property and all events and referencing another “incident” and a “warning” in February, where he said after being “bumped” by the coach he made a comment, “Really, the last one off the bench?”
He said the entire incident was caught on video and after he viewed the tape it was accidently erased.
After the February incident, he said he met with Athletic Director Jack Kramer to discuss the matter and agreed to “sit in the stands and watch the games and just be quiet.”
“I was never told that our conversation was a warning and that if anything further happened I would be banned for a year,” he said.
Onstott said he spoke to Superintendent Doniel Pummell on the phone and after telling her “his side of the story,” asked her to reconsider the ban. He said he received a second letter saying the ban would be upheld. He said he was also told he had been observed “being emotional” in the stands. “If showing your emotions in the stands or on the bleachers during a game is reason to be banned, then the stands and bleachers should really be empty as …there are a lot of parents and spectators that show emotion at all kinds of sporting events.” He said because of the ban he was not allowed to attend any of his daughter’s soccer games.
After contacting an attorney who wrote to Pummell asking her to reconsider the ban, she again refused, Onstott said. He said when he attempted to come to a board meeting in May, he was told he would have to leave. Later he said he was told he could attend a meeting and address the board.
“The whole way this incident was handled is just beyond my understanding,” he said. “Since when does freedom of speech – one word – the word being “Karma” – get a parent banned from school property and all sporting events for an entire year?”
After the regular June meeting when Onstott expressed his concerns during public comment, he said, “I was informed last night that since I spoke at the recognition of citizens part of the meeting and wasn’t on the agenda, that no action can be taken, so now I need to go to another board meeting… This whole thing has been like a circus…” He added, “Mrs. Pummel stated on the phone to me that I could speak during the recognition of citizens or be on the agenda and it didn’t matter either way.”
Superintendent Doniel Pummell said, “Mr. Onstott was not banned for saying one word. During the girls’ basketball season, our varsity coach had reported several issues to our AD. All of which were not appropriate behaviors for a parent towards a coach. This issue at the Doherty was simply the final issue. AD Kramer implemented the ban. He sent the first letter to Mr. Onstott. Rick then appealed the consequence to me. I had a couple of conversations on the phone with Mrs. Onstott. I also talked with our AD, Mr. Turner, our Liaison Officer and our Varsity Coach. My decision was to uphold the ban. Keeping in mind that within the ban he was given permission to attend graduation. He then hired a lawyer and asked again to have the situation reconsidered. At this point, I allowed him to attend Senior Honors Night, but continued the ban related to sports.”
She continued, “He was given the opportunity to have his issue put on the agenda or in public comment at the Board meeting. He selected public comment.”
Pummell added, “In the two years that I have been superintendent, no other parents have been banned.
It is not a fun thing when a parent is banned. It was certainly not a goal of mine to have this happen.”
“We will be on the next agenda,” Onstott said. “This whole issue has been going on for more than four months and I am still no further along now than when I started this whole process.”