Southlake Carroll parents have been asked to “refrain from comment” while the district investigates its famed football program, but a Texas expert on free speech said parents and students have the right to talk.
In an email to Dragon Football Families regarding the district’s decision Wednesday to place Carroll head football coach Hal Wasson on administrative paid leave, Carroll ISD Superintendent Davis Faltys stated: “I would ask you out of respect for all involved to refrain from comment during our review.”
Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, views the superintendent’s letter as only a request.
“The superintendent can ask that people not spread rumors or speak out about this matter under review, whatever it is, but he certainly cannot force students or parents to stay quiet,” Shannon said. “It sounds like he is making his wishes known with a request.
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“I’d say the superintendent is trying to make a request, but everyone has a right to comment if they wish.”
One parent did speak up Thursday.
“I’m disappointed by what’s happening between Carroll ISD and Coach Wasson,” said Jonathan Doddridge, whose son Jacob was a starting linebacker in the fall. “I don’t know what it’s about, but whatever it is, I am stunned by the way it’s playing out in public. Paid administrative leave in any profession is not positive and I sure wish that the issues could have been hashed out without involving that.”
The internal review will focus on: 1) culture of the football program, 2) procedures as they relate to UIL rules, and 3) ensuring employees’ understanding and compliance with district policies, practices and guidelines. The review is being conducted by Carroll athletic director Darren Allman, assistant superintendents and the human resources department.
Wasson and Allman have not replied to media requests for comment.
“It’s like a big trial and some are saying ‘Let’s don’t try this in the media,’ ” Shannon said. “That may be somebody’s desire, but that’s not exactly how it’s going to play out.”
Wasson, 61, has been head coach of the Dragons for 11 seasons, compiling a 121-25 record (.829 winning percentage). Carroll won the UIL Class 5A Division I state title in 2011. His team was 10-4 with an appearance in the 6A Division II state quarterfinals in 2017.
“Coach Wasson is a good person and cares about the kids and their families,” Jonathan Doddridge said. “I don’t know what Carroll ISD is investigating regarding the football culture, but from a parent perspective, I’m proud to be a part of Dragon football and I’m happy for my boys to be apart of this storied program and its culture.”
A school district official, Julie Thannum, said Thursday that it will be at least a week before the review of the football program is completed and prepared for the UIL.
“If school officials started to discipline students or tried to get involved, then that’s a danger zone,” Shannon said. “That would be tangible action that would affect freedom of speech. But we aren’t seeing any evidence of that.”