MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. - A north Alabama superintendent is standing behind a head football coach after parent complaints about player discipline.
Our investigative team is looking into allegations that Douglas football coach Jamison Wadley directed his team to do physical discipline that led to injuries.
Parents told WHNT News 19 the Douglas High School football team was instructed to do bear crawls, which is a full-body exercise, walking on all fours on Monday morning.
Parents and players told us coaches told the players to perform those bear crawls across asphalt the length of the football field and back.
Concerned parents contacted WHNT News 19 after pictures of injuries to players hands began circulating online.
"It's horrible -- it hurts me just to see them," said Stephen Stone, whose son was among those players. "I want the school to do something to ensure the parents that their children can go to school and be safe."
Stone believes the coaches went too far in their discipline to the players. "You can't inflict harm and physical injury upon our children and think we're just going to turn a blind eye."
Other parents we spoke to who declined to go on camera say discipline like this is necessary to toughen up the players and prepare them for success.
We reached out to Douglas High School to get their view of what took place, they referred us to Marshall County School administrators.
Superintendent Cindy Wigley says she is aware of the situation and while nothing is more important than student safety, students must also be held accountable.
Marshall County Schools Superintendent Cindy Wigley released the following statement about the incident:
"There's nothing more important than the safety and integrity of our students. You've heard me say that on more than one occasion. It's never been more true than today. I want to address a situation at Douglas High School that occurred yesterday. Due to rumors and talk, it has gotten out of control. It's my job to help you understand what has happened. A situation took place early yesterday morning. It involved a coach and some players. It was brought to my attention and I have addressed the situation. Unfortunately, since that time, an individual outside our school, specifically a parent, has become involved. This has threatened the safety of our coach, players and other parents at the school. I will not tolerate threats, harassment or physical abuse against any of our staff or students. While there were unintended consequences from the coach’s actions, students must also be held accountable for their actions. Knowing all the facts about what has occurred, I want the community to know that I support our coach, who wants nothing but the best for our student athletes and the school he serves. I have asked sheriff's deputies to help patrol the Douglas High School campus to keep our students, staff and parents safe. I will continue to do so. Please help me do all I can to keep our students in a safe and friendly environment. Help me protect our students by helping manage rumors and talk that is unhealthy. Thank you."
The superintendent did not specify what she meant by unintended consequences.
Others in the community are ardently sticking by the coaches. The Marshall County Sheriff's Office says it has taken two incident reports and are reviewing the allegations.
Football coaches have drawn more scrutiny in recent years over player safety. The Alabama High School Athletic Association says it doesn't have guidelines for discipline but it does have detailed rules regarding football player contact and heat safety.