Updated: Wednesday, 11:18 p.m.
The Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 School Board decided to take no action concerning Manhattan High School football coach Joe Schartz Wednesday night inside the Robinson Education Center.
The room was packed wall to wall with supporters of Schartz and the football program — a program that has received attention from the board after it was reported in October that the Riley County Police Department was called to Bishop Stadium for battery involving football players. Officers listed a 15-year-old male and a 16-year-old male as the victims when it was reported multiple teenage suspects kicked and hit the victims.
The RCPD announced early Wednesday morning it concluded its investigation and that the case would be submitted to the Riley County Attorney’s Office for a determination on charges. In addition to the original battery offense, a supplemental report has been completed for endangering a child and contributing to a child’s misconduct.
“The USD 383 Board of Education has a strong policy against hazing — hazing is a crime,” school board president Darrel Edie read in a prepared statement following an extended executive session with fellow board members, superintendent Marvin Wade and a phone conference with an attorney from the Kansas Association of School Boards. “The board also has policies concerning the supervision of students. Given the situation is under review of the county attorney and given the serious nature of the allegations and given a student was injured, it is premature for the board to take action.
“In the interim, the board directs the superintendent to insure the safety of all students in our educational and extracurricular programs. The mission of the USD 383 Board of Education is creating a safe and positive learning environment.”
“At this time Joe Schartz remains employed in his current capacities in the district,” he said.
No public comment was taken. After board members went into another executive session, Wade spoke took questions from reporters and then addressed the crowd that quickly gathered around him.
Wade said the decision is his responsiblity and that he wants to resolve the matter, but gave no timetable on when that would be.
“I can’t comment on those things,” he said. “I need to deal with this… I want to deal with this as quickly as possible. This has drug on too long. Too many people are being affected. It’s driving another wedge in our community we don’t need. We have to put it to rest, even if people don’t like the answer, you need an answer and you need to hold someone accountable — whether it’s me or somebody else.
“And I accept that responsibility. Now, I need a little bit of time for me to work through this issue in a way that I feel is most fair to everybody involved. So, I can’t give you a timeline other than I want to resolve it as quickly as possible.”
Wade said the decision would not be made at a public meeting.
Jon Harper, a parent of a senior MHS football player, said he hoped for a resolution.
“I want the appropriate answer, but it seems to me like we’re back full circle to where maybe it should of started in the beginning with the superintendent taking on information,” he said.
Harper, who supports keeping Schartz, said he doesn’t approve of the actions taken by the students.
“There’s another side to it and we all understand that,” he said. “None of us are downplaying the incident, but the man that is getting kind of drug through the coals here is a very good man that would never condone any of the actions that took place, and I don’t think he should have to suffer the consequences of 16, 17-year-old kids in the moment, immature actions.”
The school board held a special meeting Tuesday morning at the Robinson Education Center concerning Schartz’s future.
It went into an executive session with Wade just after 7:30 a.m. for 20 minutes, only to reemerge and motion for an extended executive session for another 30 minutes. After that concluded, Edie told approximately two dozen parents and supporters of Schartz at the meeting that a vote would be taken by the board during Wednesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting. It was stated then that the vote would be based on whether or not to accept Wade’s recommendation discussed in the executive sessions.
Wade’s recommendation wasn’t revealed Tuesday or Wednesday night.
The Mercury Mercury reported the incident was a part of a hazing ritual called “birthday beatdowns,” and that several USD 383 administrators, including Wade, athletic director Mike Marsh and Schartz began investigating the incident “right away.”
A petition in support of Schartz has 848 signatures as of Wednesday night.
Wade met with Schartz Tuesday.
Another layer to the story involves the school board itself, as three new school board members will be sworn in on Jan. 17.
In November, Karla Hagemeister, Katrina Lewison and Jurdene Coleman were elected to replace outgoing members Aaron Estabrook, Pat Hudgins and Marcia Rozell.
MHS fell to Derby in the second round of the 6A state playoffs in November. Schartz is 73-19 in nine years coaching the team.