Washington Resigns As Lake Wales Basketball Coach
Fri. April 20, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Billy Washington led Lake Wales to the Class 5A state championship this past season. (Photo by PIERRE DUCHARME | THE LEDGER)
By PHIL ATTINGER
LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
LAKE WALES | Coach Billy Dee Washington, the Lake Wales basketball coach who fulfilled a lifelong dream of coaching a basketball team to a state championship, has resigned, effective June 8.
Washington lead the Lake Wales Highlanders boys’ basketball team to the Class 5A state championship on March 3.
On March 26, he was placed on paid leave after a 17-year-old girl was injured by another student in the gymnasium where he was working. She was injured when her head hit the floor after being body-slammed by another student.
Lake Wales Police arrested 18-year-old Daquand Devonte Marion and charged him with battery.
Marion also was suspended from school for 10 days, and the Lake Wales Charter School System has recommended to the Polk County School District that he be expelled.
Parents and players praised Washington, who led the team to the school’s second state basketball championship.
Sophia Allen said Washington has been a positive influence in her children’s lives.
Another parent, Sherita Brooks, said Washington was a good role model for her son, Douglas, whom Washington has coached for the past three years.
The players were upset enough by the suspension of the 2011-12 PolkPreps.com Boys Basketball Coach of the Year that there was talk of boycotting their victory parade April 4.
But when they were told Washington could join the parade, the celebration went on as scheduled.
The investigation into Washington ended Friday when he resigned.
In a signed statement, he and Lake Wales High School Principal Donna Dunson agreed that he will receive normal pay through the end of this year’s contract and neither one of them will make disparaging remarks or further comment on the matter.
Both have declined to comment throughout the investigation, as have Superintendent Jesse Jackson and Washington’s lawyer, Breezi Stanislaus.
Robin Gibson, lawyer for the Charter System, provided the News Chief with a copy of the 70-page Charter System’s investigation Friday.
It is now “public knowledge,” he said, since the school’s investigation of Washington has closed.
The March 23 incident involved students who were not in Washington’s class, but he was the only faculty member in the gym at the time.
According to statements by Marion, Washington and weightlifting coach Mike Lee, Marion and the injured girl were weightlifting students.
The incident started about 9:25 a.m. as Marion and other boys were horseplaying in the gym, police reported.
A 4-minute, 20-second security camera video, released by police Wednesday, shows the boys sparring and wrestling while other students are shooting baskets.
Washington can’t be seen in the video. Gibson said Wednesday that Washington was seated at a desk working on his laptop on the south end of the gym, away from the camera and the incident, which happened on the north end.
In an email he sent March 28 to Assistant Principal Eugene Kendrick, Washington said he was working on a computer near a storage room when he heard a loud noise and saw the girl on the ground across the gym.
A few of the students explained to him what happened, Washington’s email said, so he called the front office for Jasone Dewitt, the athletic dean.
“I did not witness the incident,” Washington wrote, “but they know horseplaying is not allowed to prevent accidents from happening.”
He told Kendrick that he had earlier told the boys to stop horseplaying.
When they started again, he had told them to stop or go back to the weight room, or he would “send them up” to the front office.
He wrote that they then stopped and scattered.
In a statement he made to administrators, Lee said he learned the horseplay went on for 10 minutes.
Lee said the fact his students were in the gym and not the weightlifting room was normal because the physical education team decided three or four years ago to allow students to experience other activities if they were done with their usual class activities.
According to their written statements, 18 of the 27 students in the gym at the time said they saw what happened and the horseplay that lead up to it.
One student said Washington was frequently working on his iPad during class.
Lee said he didn’t learn the full story until he met with Dunson and her administrative staff on March 26 and saw the video.
“There was no reason for these students to act like they did, no reason for others students to stand there and let it happen, and no reason for the supervising teacher to be absent from the view of the camera when all of this was happening,” Lee said.
[ Phil Attinger can be reached at 863-401-6981 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ]