Following a two-hour executive session where dozens of community members waited in the high school cafeteria, the Kingfisher Public Schools Board voted unanimously to reject a proposed $1.5 million offer to settle an anonymous lawsuit alleging “hazing that rose to a level of torture” within the Kingfisher High School football program.
Board president Dana Golbek declined to comment on the board’s decision to reject the settlement offer, which had been made by Oklahoma City plaintiff attorney Cameron Spradling.
“Not too often do we go through this,” said Golbek, a former district teacher who is facing an April 5 reelection challenge from Mitch Massey.
The lawsuit was filed by Spradling in July on behalf of a four-year Kingfisher High School football player — referred to as John Doe No. 1 — against the district, Myers, current assistant coach Derek Patterson, former assistant coach Blake Eaton and former assistant coach Micah Nall.
Nine months prior, a separate player sustained injuries during a Kingfisher High School practice, and another player’s parent reported the situation to local police. As part of that investigation by Kingfisher police, Nall pleaded guilty to obstructing a police officer and agreed not to coach in any capacity for one year as part of a plea deal. (Nall ultimately took a teaching and bus driving position at Western Heights Public Schools in Oklahoma City where he helped that school’s football program by recording and editing 2021 practice and game footage, according to former Western Heights Superintendent Monte Guthrie.)
New Kingfisher Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Craig also declined to comment Wednesday on the allegations against Myers, who was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Coaching Hall of Fame and whose program won a state championship in 2013.
The district’s former superintendent, Jason Sternberger, left Kingfisher at the end of the 2020-2021 school year to take the superintendent job at Hennessey Public Schools, a smaller district. Sternberger’s own children were prominent members of the Kingfisher football program, one of whom made the NFL.
Myers declined to comment on the allegations when reached by Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman.
Lawsuit alleges mental, physical, sexual abuse
Court documents allege mental, physical, verbal, digital and sexual abuse along with a disregard for Title IX laws at the hands of the defendant coaches and fellow teammates.
The lawsuit has been moved from Kingfisher County District Court to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Last week, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced a review of the allegations for potential criminality. The State Department of Education is also conducting its own inquiry.
Spradling’s amended petition, filed in January and available here, alleges that Myers and the rest of the coaching staff fostered an environment that encouraged the utilization of hazing by players in order to “toughen them up.” Court documents also allege the use of banned drills by coaches, including the Oklahoma Drill, bull in the ring and a drill that resulted in players being tackled against a wall.
In the lawsuit, John Doe alleges that he showed up for practice one day and was shot at and hit with a paintball gun by an upperclassman while coaches laughed. He says he was intimidated and stunned with a taser by a two seniors during his freshman year and was whipped in the locker room with a towel to the point of bruising and lacerations on a weekly basis throughout his freshman year. He also alleges that a senior player put his testicles on his face in the locker room.
Witnesses referenced in the lawsuit and interviewed by a private investigator employed by Spradling say John Doe was singled out because he was a “rich kid.” Multiple people that attended Wednesday’s board meeting said they know the plaintiff’s identity.
“I’d say about 90 percent of people know (in Kingfisher),” said a well-connected resident on the condition of anonymity.
NonDoc knows the identity of and has met with the plaintiff and his father, but has not identified the alleged victim or elaborated on his specific experiences because he wishes to remain anonymous.
After Wednesday’s school board vote, Spradling issued a statement on behalf of his clients.
“We are surprised that Kingfisher has rejected our generous settlement offer,” Spradling said. “However, we are pleased that we have the opportunity to bring to the public’s attention more revelations.”
Nall previously charged with obstructing officer
The allegations in Spradling’s lawsuit have embroiled the small town of about 5,000 people, who just saw their high school basketball team win its second state championship in three seasons.
Since news spread of the OSBI investigation, social media posts have expressed both concern and criticism about the allegations, with some individuals wanting to see how the case plays out in court and through the criminal inquiry.
This is the second law enforcement investigation into the Kingfisher football program in less than two years.
In November 2020, charges of obstructing a police officer were filed against Nall by the Kingfisher County District Attorney’s Office following the questionable use of a drill at a high school football practice.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Aug. 25, 2020, Sgt. Charles Trout with the Kingfisher Police Department spoke with a 15-year-old Kingfisher football player at his home after a news story alleging that a football coach mistreated him during practice aired.
The affidavit states that the student was selected by Nall to be in the middle of a banned toughness drill known as “bull in the ring,” where he was allegedly hit multiple times from all directions over a significant period of time. The player was unable to get his feet under him before Nall allegedly sent another player to hit him. (NonDoc obtained video of the incident, embedded above, via records request from the Kingfisher Police Department.)
Then-assistant coach Issac Waltman told Trout that the 15-year-old was the only player placed in the middle of the ring for several minutes and that he “couldn’t believe that Micah took the drill that far.” Waltman also stated that “he has never seen the drill ran that way and the player in the middle is rotated out” under normal circumstances.
During the KPD investigation, Trout discovered that Nall had tried to obtain a copy of Waltman’s statement to the district superintendent — Sternberger — before speaking with law enforcement. Nall also attempted to contact the Kingfisher County district attorney to influence the investigation, Trout wrote.
The District Attorney’s Office filed two charges against Nall — enabling child abuse by injury and obstructing an officer — but dropped the first charge as part of Nall’s plea agreement on the second.
‘As a community, we hold together’
Frontline Ministries pastor Debbie Burpo, a fourth-generation Kingfisher resident, said she attended Wednesday’s meeting because she loves her community.
“I believe there’s two sides to every story. The truth needs to come forward,” Burpo said. “If the allegations are true, they need to be dealt with.”
Burpo said she had a nephew who used to play on the football team under Myers, but that he had a good experience.
“One thing about Kingfisher, as a community, we hold together,” Burpo said.
Mitch Massey is currently running for school board against president Dana Golbek. In a recent post on Facebook, Massey said he did not believe the district should settle the lawsuit.
“I believe it’s best to play itself out in court,” Massey wrote. “I do not support abuse of any kid, but I know if I was a coach and was getting sued I would want to know the school had my back.”