AL Dept. of Education says Douglas football coach allegations are in the hands of local administrators

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DOUGLAS, Ala. - The Alabama State Department of Education says the evaluation of the Douglas High School head football coach's actions regarding player discipline is in the hands Marshall County school district administrators, despite the possibility that the discipline did not meet state guidelines.

Our investigative team has learned head coach Jamison Wadley had his players do a full-body exercise known bear crawls on asphalt as a punishment during their first-period class on Monday. Pictures sent to WHNT News 19 show what appear to be blisters and cuts on some players' hands.

A few parents of football players we spoke with are concerned about the injuries. Many other parents and Marshall County Superintendent Cindy Wigley are standing behind the coach and his actions.

The football players were apparently told to do the bear crawls during their football period which is a physical education class. The Alabama State Department of Education's physical education handbook, which was updated in April 2019, says that physical activity cannot be used as a form of punishment.

We reached out the find out what if anything happens when a guideline like this isn't followed.

A spokesperson for the department released this statement:

“Physical education in high schools, as defined by the Alabama Course of Study, is a conceptual framework by which educators expect students to demonstrate competency in health-enhancing physical fitness. There could be numerous variables to take into consideration with this incident. Given the limited knowledge of the events at Douglas High School, it would be inappropriate for the state to chime in. Consideration for the appropriateness of the coach’s action would be best determined by the local school system and/or local board.”

Several parents and WHNT News 19 viewers have asked what if any state laws were broken. Alabama state law indicates that educators have a duty to report suspected abuse or neglect. A criminal case in this matter would likely hinge on intent, meaning did the coach intend to hurt the players when he decided on this kind of discipline.

Multiple sources including former and current law enforcement officers, school administrators and football coaches who live in the Tennessee Valley spoke to WHNT News 19 about the incident. They all acknowledge that football is an intense sport but also believe that the decision to have players do bear crawls on asphalt wasn't a good idea and that it crossed some sort of line.

We asked for further clarification on Superintendent Cindy Wigley's comments about "unintended consequences" and students being held accountable for their actions. We also asked if she was aware of the state guidelines regarding exercise as punishment in physical education handbook. Wigley has not responded as of Wednesday evening.

The Marshall County District Attorney's Office is aware of the situation and the reports filed with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office. The DA's office would not comment on what, if any, action it would take on the matter.

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