Monday, December 4th 2023, 4:57 pm
A settlement has been reached between Kingfisher Public Schools and Mason Mecklenburg, and now Kingfisher residents are on the hook for millions. The school will pay out $5 million to Mecklenburg, after years of alleged abuse he endured during his time on the Kingfisher Football team.
Due to a problem with the school’s liability insurance, the district doesn’t have the funds to pay the settlement and is now forced to raise taxes over the next three years.
The settlement was approved by district officials last month and was unanimously approved by the Kingfisher School Board this evening.
Dozens of residents showed up to Monday’s meeting, outraged that they were going to be paying the price of the settlement. Many people said they were left with more questions than answers following the meeting.
“I just thought the community needed to have an understanding about how that happened,” said Stephen Foreman, a Kingfisher resident. "Really unfortunate that we're not going to get any feedback as a community,” siad Deborah Parks, a Kingfisher resident. “We got a little clarification on a few things but there's still a lot of open ended questions that we as a community need answers for,” said Jett Rutledge, a Kingfisher resident.
Dozens of residents spoke during public comment, while others cheered from the crowd, all raising their concerns about a $5 million settlement that many of them will foot the bill for. "There's a lot of emotions involved in this," said Foreman.
Taxpayers living in the Kingfisher school district will see increased taxes to cover $3.75 million of the settlement that was reached. The first $1.25 million installment will be paid by the school by February, but they say they don’t have enough money in their general revenue fund to cover the rest of the cost. "For people on fixed income with a 14%-16% tax increase per year for 3 years it's going to cripple their household,” said Rutledge.
Mecklenburg alleges he was physically, sexually, and mentally abused during his time on the Kingfisher football team. “$5 million settlement for wet towel popping in the shower - that's a lot of money,” said Tom Edgar, a long-time Kingfisher resident.
Edgar added that this will set a dangerous precedent for the future. Many criticized the board after passing up on a $1.25 million settlement when the suit was filed more than two years ago, and not having liability insurance to cover the cost. “No matter where the fault lies, the citizens of Kingfisher county should not be held liable for a $5 million settlement when it could have been settled for substantially less 2 years ago,” said Rutledge.
Kingfisher superintendent David Glover says the decision to settle was a difficult one but says ultimately - this was in the best interest of the students. “We just didn't see an end and on the advice of our counsel we knew we were probably going to lose the judgment,” said Glover.
The board also tabled a motion to give teacher stipends across the district, saying that money should go towards paying the settlement as well. The stipends would have cost the district about $280,000.
Board members say they are still trying to figure out ways to cover the cost of the settlement before having to raise any taxes.
Also in the settlement, former football coach Jeff Myers agrees never to coach in Kingfisher again, and district employees will have mandatory training on how to respond to bullying and sexual harassment.
Kingfisher Public Schools Settles Federal Civil Abuse Lawsuit For $5 Million
A settlement has been reached for $5 million in the federal civil suit against Kingfisher Public Schools and several coaches, according to Superintendent David Glover.
The district agreed to the settlement with Mason Mecklenburg
"The decision was reached to settle was from the advice of our counsel," Glover told the Kingfisher Times & Free-Press. "There were a number of factors that went into the decision by our board but it was decided that the risk to our school system and to our patrons was too great to gamble on a jury trial that our attorneys just did not think we could win."
Mecklenburg’s attorney, Nathan Hall, spoke about almost two decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups at the hands of current Kingfisher football coach, Jeff Myers, saying that coaches and administration at Kingfisher knew about many of the instances and did nothing about them.
“We have a well-documented record that multiple students have been subjected to bullying, hazing, abuse, and sexual assault, boys in the locker room at Kingfisher Public Schools, yet Kingfisher refuses to do anything about it,” said Hall.
The lawsuit claimed the Mecklenburg's first brought forward claims involving the alleged abuse of their son in 2021. However, they're asserting that district and state officials have failed to take needed action.
Court documents alleged that for almost two decades, the Kingfisher football program has condoned bullying, hazing, violence, and child abuse. Those suing say head football coach Jeff Myers bears responsibility.
Myers is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of a felony charge of child neglect that was filed in October.
The settlement agreement says the district will not renew Myers' coaching contract at the end of this year, or in the future. Myers is banned from participating in any activity with the KPS football program for the remainder of his current contract and in the future.
KPS is to pay $1.25 million from the fund within 90 days. This money is due on February 13, 2024, according to the settlement agreement. The rest of the $3.75 million will be paid over the course of the next 3 years from the school's sinking fund.
Glover stated the settlement is not a recognition of liability but is meant to recognize that the community comes first. By settling this lawsuit, he says the district can return their focus to education.
The settlement agreement also states the Kingfisher district has agreed to begin a mandatory training program for district employees on how to identify, respond to and prevent bullying and sexual harassment.
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