Report: Dozens suspended following protest over coach’s punishment

Dozens of high school students have reportedly been suspended after they walked out in protest of a high school coach’s suspension following a video which showed the coach in a confrontation with a teen student.

The group of freshmen reportedly missed a support rally held in the school’s courtyard and went out to the football field to protest.

Lee Linville, assistant football coach and teacher at West Rowan High School, was served a criminal summons last week for simple assault after a video was taken that appears to show 42-year-old Linville fighting with a 15-year-old student.

According to officials, the student took his school-issued laptop from the top of Linville’s desk and attempted to leave the classroom.

That’s when Linville stood in front of the student, blocked the doorway, and told him to go back to his seat. The student then reportedly pushed Linville in the chest.

Linville picked the student up, pushed him into a metal cabinet, and threw him to the floor, according to the report.

A student captured the incident on cell phone video. It appears that another student was attempting to hold Linville back.

The video was obtained by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and after review, officials say it was determined that Linville should be charged with simple assault. They also say the student involved should be charged as a juvenile for disorderly conduct.

Linville was originally suspended with pay, but after further investigation, he was transitioned to suspension without pay, Rowan-Salisbury Schools say.

The district said they are continuing to work with law enforcement as well as conducting their own internal investigation.

“We take these situations very serious. We regret that this occurred. Our focus remains to be providing a safe environment for teaching and learning for all our students and staff,” RSS released in a statement.

On Monday morning, students at the high school rallied for Linville and called for him to be reinstated. As of Monday morning, there was no change in his employment status.

Students at the rally say they had permission to gather from the school’s principal. They held a prayer circle for Linville.

A group of freshmen were reportedly held in an assembly and missed the support rally.

“They pretty much left us all out of it and we were the ones who wanted to do it,” a freshman told WBTV. “So no freshmen went to the protest. We all went down to the football field instead.”

She says they jumped over the fence to get to the football field. Between 20 and 40 students that went to the football field were reportedly brought back up to the school and were given a one-day suspension.

“Because they had assigned a time for the question and answer session and we climbed over a fence to get into the football field,” the student told WBTV. “I think it’s unfair because we didn’t have time to express ourselves and our opinions on the incident.”

“I think we all just wanted to be together and to show that we support Linville and were all wearing blue,” she said. “Everybody had blue streaks on their face and I think we just wanted to make a point that we stand for Linville.”

School district officials released a statement about the suspensions Monday afternoon.

“A large number of West Rowan High School students engaged in an orderly protest prior to school this morning in support of Mr. Linville,” school officials told WBTV.

“We respect their right to express themselves and we are proud of how the majority of our students conducted themselves in a peaceful, responsible and orderly manner,” school officials continued. “There were a few students that violated school rules and they were disciplined in accordance with the district’s Code of Conduct.”

They say no student was suspended or disciplined for supporting Linville.

Another freshman told WBTV they were “making a statement saying that this school really does care about him. There’s more than what the video shows.”

A Facebook page called “Justice for Coach Linville” called for students to wear blue to show support for Linville. Nearly 2,500 people have liked the page as of Monday morning.

The criminal summons for Linville has a court date of May 4 at 9 a.m. and does not require him to be presented to a magistrate. Linville did not receive a bond for the charge, officials say.