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Portage County Gazette, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 1 October 1999
Gridiron saga moves into court
By Gene Kemmeter
Clouds swirl around the once-sunny season for the highly rated Stevens Point Area Senior High School football team.
While the team has a 4-1 record on the gridiron, events off the field have generated controversy around the community.
Shortly after practice began in August, reports arose of senior players paddling sophomores with boards as part of an initiation practice for the team.
After several executive sessions, the Stevens Point Area Board of Education disciplined five players for violations of the athletic code, suspending them for two games. Four other persons involved in athletics were also disciplined in conjunction with the incident.
In response, three of the suspended players have filed a lawsuit against the district, Superintendent of Schools Emery Babcock and the School Board, challenging the constitutionality of the board action and seeking undisclosed punitive damages. Their suit says the suspensions were harsher than similar or comparable conduct in the past.
Then on Monday, head coach Jerry Fitzgerald, father of one of the suspended players, submitted his request for early retirement as assistant principal at SPASH, where he usually handled disciplinary measurers, after the state football playoffs.
The lawsuit was filed by Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Hall and Robb Kolodziej last Friday, Sept. 24, and claims breach of contract and violation of constitutional rights because of the suspension.
The three, who listed the other two suspended members of the team as co-plaintiffs because they could be eligible for relief in the case, seek undisclosed punitive damages to be determined by a jury.
The suit alleges the three were deprived of their constitutional guarantees to procedural due process and claims the board violated the state Open Meetings Law by meeting in secret closed meetings without the presence and notice to the plaintiffs.
The case was assigned to Judge John Finn in Circuit Court, Branch II, but he disqualified himself, so the case awaits the assignment of a judge by the chief judge in the district.
The civil law complaint says the three pursued the action "for vindication of the rights conferred by the athletic code on us that were breached by the Stevens Point Area Public School District and for a vindication of our constitutional rights."
Students and their parents are required to sign an agreement before participating in athletics to abide by the terms of the athletic code, which calls for all claims of violations to be investigated by the athletic director or designee, the complaint says.
After learning about the alleged paddling incident, the complaint says Fitzgerald was informed by Ed Von Feldt, SPASH principal, and George Klingbail, SPASH athletic director.
The complaint says Fitzgerald immediately undertook an investigation and the five plaintiffs admitted to Fitzgerald that they participated.
Parents were told of the incident during a potluck dinner on Aug. 13, the complaint says, and the five told the school district they had gone through the same type of paddling when they were sophomores.
Klingbail was investigating the situation on Aug. 15, the complaint says, when Babcock "decided to circumvent procedures prescribed by the athletic code for handling athletic code violations and proceeded to usurp the functions entrusted by the athletic code to the athletic director and took over control of the investigation."
The school district hired a private investigator, and the complaint alleges the School Board met four times "in secret, closed session" to discuss the alleged violations and discipline.
On Aug. 31, the complaint says, the board approved Babcock's proposal to find the plaintiffs in violation of the code and imposed suspensions, commencing Sept. 7.
Dayton Daily News, Ohio, 14 October 1999
Former teacher sentenced to 6 years
By Rob Modic
TROTWOOD -- Former Trotwood-Madison High School teacher Michael E. Miller was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday after he was convicted of two counts of gross sexual imposition in the spankings of two brothers who were 9 and 11 at the time.
After admitting to the spankings but denying any wrongdoing, Miller, 35, told Judge Barbara P. Gorman he had accepted responsibility for what he had done.
"I am deeply, deeply sorry for what I did," Miller, wearing blue jail clothing, said in front of his wife, parents and siblings. "What I did was wrong."
Miller's statement came after the two victims, now 10 and 12, told Gorman how agonizing it had been to testify about what Miller had done while supervising them in September 1998 at the Larch Tree Golf Course, where Miller was a part-time employee. The boys had been working as volunteers for Miller during an arrangement he made with their mother.
The boys' mother told the judge, "Michael Miller violated my sons' bodies, their trust and their innocence."
Miller testified that he struck both boys after pulling down their shorts and underwear, but he insisted that it was innocent roughhousing during a slow period in the pro shop.
Gorman also designated Miller a sexually oriented offender, a ruling that will require him to report his residence to the local sheriff for a decade after his release from prison.
"To get to your victims, you used charm and manipulation and therefore, you became what parents most fear," Gorman said.
Miller worked as a government teacher at Trotwood-Madison for five years and the spanking incident happened just three weeks after he married a 25-year-old teacher from the district.
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