Hazing inquiry clears 2 coaches at central Arkansas high school

Bus incident gets state police look

An investigation into allegations of hazing at a central Arkansas high school found no evidence of child maltreatment on the part of two baseball coaches.

Rebecca Worsham, an attorney for the Bauxite School District, said teaching contracts for Coach Michael Mattox and Assistant Coach Steven Tew were renewed, meaning an investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.

An investigation to see if any criminal charges will be filed in the case is ongoing, according to the prosecuting attorney's office in Polk County, where the hazing was said to have occurred.

The allegations stem from a March 2 incident on a bus ride home from a game in Mena, according to John Wesley Hall, the attorney who represents three Bauxite High School students who were expelled.

Mattox and Tew were placed on paid administrative leave in April pending the results of the investigation. Three students were expelled for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year.

Tew has accepted a position as head baseball coach and assistant football coach at Carlisle High School, according to Leann Pinkerton, a spokesman for Bauxite School District. He was a business teacher at Bauxite Middle School.

Mattox is a physical-education teacher at Pine Haven Elementary.

The Arkansas State Police assisted with the maltreatment investigation. A criminal case file regarding sexual-assault allegations involving the students was opened April 4, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.

Worsham said the students were found to have violated the district's student handbook. She also said letters sent to the students' families listed the reason for expulsion as sexual harassment and hazing.

The three students were suspended for 10 days initially, effective March 29, pending the outcome of the Bauxite School Board's vote. If they return for the 2018-19 school year, the students will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities, according to the letters sent to their parents.

Pinkerton declined to specify whether disciplinary action against any others was being considered, citing student privacy laws.

Hall said at least one of the students he represents will not return to Bauxite High School in the fall.

Hall said the incident on the ride home from Mena was nothing more than the players' usual "roughhousing" and nothing close to a sexual assault, which is what some said happened.

The attorney said he plans to appeal the district's decision to expel the students, which would mean eventually filing a lawsuit against the district. He added that the coaches being cleared of child maltreatment was unusual, saying he's seen coaches dismissed over much less, but that he believe the development should help the players' case.

Metro on 06/15/2018