Student Athletes Report Corporal Punishment
CBS 2, Chicago, September 24, 2008
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CHICAGO (CBS 2) ? It is against the law in Illinois for a teacher or coach to hit a student. But CBS 2 Investigaor Dave Savini reports student athletes at Simeon Career Academy faced corporal punishment for not performing their best – painful lessons for players who did nothing more than make a mistake on the court.
Bruce Zayas chose Simeon because of its reputation as a sports powerhouse, producing top players, including Derrick Rose, the Bulls' number one draft choice.
But a bat, wooden plank and security tape, obtained exclusively by the 2 Investigators, exposes a darker side to Simeon's prestigious athletic programs.
"It's a tradition there," Zayas, 17, said. "They hit players."
"I had a paddle mark across my butt," said the former Simeon captain, who quit after the incident.
Video from a security camera obtained exclusively by CBS2 captured the incident. The camera, located in the Simeon gym, shows sophomore assistant coach Fred McClinton striking the players repeatedly.
Zayas is seen being struck at least five times causing him to sprint away in pain. He can even be seen stuffing his shirt in his mouth and biting down to try and endure the blows.
"It killed me," Zayas said. "I don't know how to describe it."
The 2 Investigators tried to talk to coach McClinton, who only said he was "not interested in that" and refused to comment.
In a Chicago public schools document describing the incident McClinton admits the paddle was used by him but claims the punishment was the players' idea, including Zayas. Zayas says he never asked to be paddled.
The 2 Investigators found more corporal punishment cases at other schools, including several in Gary, Indiana.
Joshua Perry was in sixth grade when he and others were repeatedly struck with a paddle by coach Thayer Williamson for missing free throws at the now-closed Melton Elementary School.
"That is abuse," said Lisa Perry, Joshua's mother.
She pressed charges and last year Williamson pled guilty to three felonies.
The conclusion was surprising to some because corporal punishment is legal in Indiana, and 20 other states, where students have been injured.
But corporal punishment has been banned in Illinois since 1994.
Zayas' mother, Valerie Thompson, agrees with the ban.
"I want to be the voice for my kid and every other kid at Simeon Academy: you don't have to take this," she said.
Rich Mallen, Zayas' attorney, said until he was hired, Zayas' complaints weren't investigated.
"If a student took a piece of wood and struck another kid they'd number one, get a referral, and number two, call the cops," Mallen said.
Calvin Davis, Director of Sports Administration for Chicago Public Schools, confirmed McClinton resigned.
"It was improper for the coach to do that," Davis said. "It was a violation of policy."
Zayas says the paddle in his case appears to be missing, but a baseball bat with the words "look out" and an oar with another coach's name carved into it, were found in the athletic department.
"We tell coaches to abide by the board policy and refrain from practicing corporal punishment," Davis said. "And that's something that we certainly support here at sports administration and is something that we'll continue to have a zero tolerance for."
Davis said he's heard rumors of other paddling cases and will launch a larger investigation into the entire athletic department now that more paddles have been found. Corporal Punishment has been banned in Illinois since 1994.
Mallen said that paddling the students is promoting a wrong message.
"We're trying to break the cycle of violence in school and out of school," Mallen said. "And here's a teacher-a figure or authority-that's taking a paddle and whacking a kid.
Zayas said he quit Simeon's team because he was ostracized for being a whistleblower.
Now he fears he's lost his chance at a scholarship.
"I need a scholarship," he said. "I can't pay a full college tuition."
There are still many questions being investigated, including what other coaches or teachers knew about the paddling.
Gary public school officials declined the 2 Investigators' request for an on-camera interview, but several children there reported injuries serious enough to seek medical attention.
Violence in the classroom