Upheaval at Leon High School: Principal and Cheerleader Coach vs LCSB
Epting and Berry
By Bobby Henry, Sr.
After an independent investigation by the Leon County School Board(LCSB) found issues with Leon High School cheerleading tryouts, the Superintendent did nothing to protect four students, who were discriminated against as a result.
The parents of a cheerleader requested to the superintendent that he conduct an independent investigation of a process that had no scores, was not fully open to the public and questioned Coach Berry’s affiliation with a private gym. As a result of that investigation, the superintendent reported to two independent sources, that he’d determined ‘that the four girls should be added to the squad”. Yet, he is allowing Principal Epting to defy that recommendation. Upon hearing of this, Rocky Hannah said, “The buck stops with the superintendent; it should always be his job, to protect the students.” He can only attribute the superintendent’s unwillingness to act to “politics and his not wanting to upset the principal at Leon, to the detriment of the students involved.”
Last month, after sending Principal Billy Epting, the recommendation to place the four girls discriminated against on the squad, a report was released to the Tallahassee Democrat and other news outlets containing false information, attributed to quotes by Coach Caylen Berry.
The parents never threatened to sue the school board, they simply asked the super-intendent to investigate a process, which LCSB’s own investigation found had numerous issues and concerns. Not only did the investigator have concerns about the process, but also concerns about Coach Berry and her impartiality. Yet, neither Superintendent Pons nor Principal Epting tried to clear up the false information with the media.
This is not the first time Coach Berry’s involvement with the Leon Cheerleading tryouts has caused concerns. Last year, Coach Berry told a girl before tryouts were completed, “that she’d already selected her girls for certain positions on the squad, and if she wanted to make Varsity, she’d have to move to another position.”
During the 2015 tryouts, four African American girls, who’d cheered at Leon for three years, had to be added to the squad after scores showed that Coach Berry selected girls with lower scores for the team. Some of those selected, cheered at the private gym where she worked at the time. This too was reported to the LCSB by numerous parents. Asst. Superintendent Marvin Henderson investigated and found that Coach Berry had indeed chosen girls with lesser scores. Also, as a result of Coach Berry working at the private gym, should have excluded her from participating as a judge during the 2015 tryouts, according to the LCSB policy.
According to sources close to the parents, “The parents, who requested the investigation, did as any parents would do, when they see injustice happening, not just to their daughter, but for all students. They went to the School Board for help, but instead had to watch while their daughters were made to be villains in the press. They are so disappointed that the people they thought would protect their children and the others students failed them.”
While looking into who “Coach Caylen Berry” is, it was discovered that she has a very low image of African Americans, from her published article (follow link below) and they think it would be very hard to work at an animal shelter, if you didn’t like cats or dogs:
Here is what we know:
On May 25, 2016 parents requested that Dr. Dr. Kathleen L. Rodgers, Equity and Title IX compliance officer investigate the Leon tryouts. The request was made, because there were NO scores taken during tryouts, nor any rubric used to deter-mine how squads were selected.
- July 12, 2016, Superintendent Pons told two persons involved with the investigation that Dr. Rodgers’ investigation had found several issues with the tryout process and was sending it back to Epting at Leon, to place four girls on the cheer squad.
- Epting and the cheer coach did not like the investigation outcome, and one or both released erroneous information to the press.
- The cheerleader did in fact fall on Friday during the try-outs, but made it through that day’s cut. On Saturday, during the “closed” tryouts, the cheerleader made all five tumbling attempts.
- The coach stated at the parent meeting that “you could not make varsity if you did not tumble”, yet she placed four girls on the team who had NO tumbling experience.
In addition to this, Leon High School has several other issues that have been reported to the National Action Network and the NAACP:
- Two Black teachers’ contracts were not renewed, one Black teacher died earlier this year; however none or 0 of 21 newly hired teachers at Leon High School are Black.
- The wrong transcript was sent to a college in midwest that caused a Black student a $70K scholarship, which then by default went to another student at Leon High School who is white.
Efforts were made to reach LCSB and Cheer Nation Athletics – Owners (Dana Brown and Dustin Baker) for a comment on how Coach Berry sees African Americans.