October 28, 2015 Share

Opinion: Where is proof in Thrash case?

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The following letter was submitted to Southern Torch by Fyffe resident Conner Runyan. Southern Torch is committed to providing balanced, fair coverage of this and all issues that affect DeKalb County and our readers. The 2014 termination of Coach Neal Thrash as Fyffe head basketball coach and the ongoing lawsuit that followed has been one of the most heated news topics in the region. Do you have an opinion about the Thrash case? If so, submit your letters to: editor@southerntorch.com or mail to LETTER TO EDITOR, PO BOX 614, Rainsville, AL 35986.

Prove It

Dear Editor,

Neal Thrash, like each of us, deserves to have his good name and character protected by those who employ him, at least until it is proven guilty of some misdeed. But that’s the rub. No one has proven yet he did anything wrong.

Hugh Taylor, in stating “For his sake” – meaning Thrash—“I’d rather not elaborate on the circumstances,” has thrown gasoline on the fire. The implication is that Coach Thrash really did something terrible – so bad it can’t be discussed.

So let’s talk about what it is that this coach is alleged to have done.

Fyffe is a small town and like most close-knit communities, secrets are hard to keep. Most of us who have heard what Thrash did—oops, allegedly did– are prone to react in one of two ways: “Is that all Taylor has?” or, like me, they content a principled administrator would have handled this is a better way.

All this superintendent had to do was talk directly with this coach, let him know a parent had complained about Thrash telling a player to “get his a__ in gear” and then, perhaps too aggressively, showing the young man how to block an opponent on the court. It is worth noting that all of this took place in front of the team, so we can put aside any speculation that this must be something “really, really terrible.”

Of course Coach Thrash did wrong, especially if you like politically correct whimy coaching. This is probably the first time, in the history of this school system, that a coach has used inappropriate language. If you know otherwise, then fair play here would demand you let the Superintendent know. We must, it seems, rid this school system of all efforts to teach young boys what it takes to become young men.

The point is this: All that was needed is for Taylor to ask Thrash if he could do better in the future. Knowing Neal Thrash, he would have said “I can.” If Coach Thrash honors his word, issue over.  If he doesn’t, then remove him. This is the first smear on Neal Thrash’s public record in over thirty years. He deserved a change to correct a minor mistake.

To me, the greater and far more dangerous unprincipled behavior is that of a Superintendent who denies someone the right to hear charges, confront his accusers and be allowed to defend himself. Hugh Taylor is behaving as if he has the right to be accuser, judge, and jury.  This makes him a dangerous elected official.

I voted for Hugh Taylor; I will never consider doing so again until Neal Thrash has had a chance to be heard by the DeKalb County Board of Education. Let the five members of the Board do their job and act as the jury in this situation. If the members of the Board agree with Taylor, and vote to uphold the Superintendent, then I will accept there is more here than what Fyffe Community is hearing. My apology to Superintendent Taylor will also be warranted.

Unfortunately, Taylor’s mishandling of this situation is placing the Board and school system in a dangerous position. The courts do not move fast, but they tend to grind to fine dust those who trample on the rights of others. Before this is over, we will no longer be talking about thousands of dollars, but hundreds of thousands of dollars of mine and your money. When an elected official –Hugh Taylor in this instance–defames someone, denies them basic justice, and refuses to act in a reasonable manner, some Judge somewhere will take notice. The judge may not be in a position to order Taylor to do what is right –reinstate Coach Thrash—but he can, and will, see that Neal Thrash and his family are compensated for what Taylor says is “in the best interest of the kids.” Personally, I have come to doubt if Taylor is doing this in the best interest of students; this is beginning to smell like someone had a hidden agenda in getting rid of Thrash.

And as for Taylor believing “you can’t put a price tag” on what he says are his principled actions—actions that are distasteful to me– my conclusion is simple.

Yes you can. Just wait and see how much this is about to cost this school system.

 

After writing this, I was reminded that Coach Thrash has had his day in court. The Alabama State Department of Education Legal Division has reviewed the evidence against Thrash, at the request of Hugh Taylor, and declined to take action. There was nothing there . This basically means they find no reason to remove Thrash from his coaching position. A number of courts, including the Alabama Supreme Court, have ruled against Taylor and essentially stated, in very legal terms, that they are somewhat confused by what this Superintendent has done. For me, the question has always been why not let the “first responders” in this school system, the DeKalb County Board of Education, hear the evidence and make a decision. These are principled men; they will do what is right.

—Conner Runyan, Fyffe, Ala

 

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