In hind­sight it was not smart to bring in a ra­zor and cut a kid’s hair.”

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - Pre­ston Wil­liams Var­sity Let­ter is a col­umn about high school sports in the Washington area. E-mail Pre­ston Wil­liams at williamsp@wash­post.com.

Ex­cerpt from a state­ment by Bran­don Shapiro, the ex-head wrestling coach at Churchill High who has be­come the sub­ject of con­tro­versy.

On Jan. 6, Churchill wrestling coach Bran­don Shapiro was fired and es­corted by a school em­ployee out of his alma mater, where the two-time state cham­pion is in the ath­letic hall of fame and is con­sid­ered by many to be a lo­cal hero.

Af­ter a parental com­plaint, a school in­ves­ti­ga­tion had de­ter­mined that the buz­z­cuts he had given to at least two wrestlers on school grounds were a health and safety is­sue and a fire­able of­fense.

On Fri­day, how­ever, af­ter a groundswell of pub­lic sup­port for the dis­missed coach, Churchill Prin­ci­pal Joan Benz an­nounced that Shapiro, 25, would re­turn to the pro­gram. Start­ingMon­day, he will serve not as head coach but as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate your past sup­port for the team,” Benz wrote in an e-mail Fri­day af­ter­noon to Churchill par­ents in­form­ing them of Shapiro’s re­turn and in ap­par­ent ac­knowl­edg­ment of their re­in­state­ment ef­forts. “We are mov­ing for­ward with typ­i­cal Bull­dog spirit.”

Well, maybe not ev­ery­one. Par­ents of two of the three boys who got hair­cuts in the team room af­ter prac­tice Dec. 20 have se­ri­ous mis­giv­ings about whether a coach has the right to clip stu­dents’ hair with­out parental con­sent, and they ques­tion just how vol­un­tary the buz­z­cuts re­ally were.

The concerned par­ents say that Shapiro, who con­sid­ered the hair­cuts a team-build­ing ex­er­cise and a way to keep wrestlers’ hair in com­pli­ance with the rules of the sport, used poor judg­ment that­may have veered into haz­ing. They also re­fute key points of in­for­ma­tion that he pro­vided in his for­mal state­ment to school au­thor­i­ties about the in­ci­dent.

They also place lit­tle stock in the fact that two boys who re­ceived hair­cuts and sev­eral other wrestlers have signed state­ments say­ing that the in­ci­dent was all in fun. (The third boy whose hair was cut has said in TV in­ter­views that his clip­ping was vol­un­tary.)

“If it’s okay for him to be there at all, then why not re­in­state him [as head coach],” saidMrs. Deaver, the mother of the boy, Wes­ley Deaver, who she said was wrapped or tied in the jump rope. Mrs. Deaver, who has been in­volved with the Churchill wrestling pro­gram for eight years, asked that her first name not be used. “And if it’s not okay for him to be there, then why al­low him to be there?”

Shapiro’s many sup­port­ers, or­ga­nized by Joe Sut­ton, who in ad­di­tion to hav­ing two sons on the team em­ploys Shapiro in his real es­tate busi­ness, say that a pe­ti­tion urg­ing his re­in­state­ment gar­nered 1,000 sig­na­tures in two days. They are hail­ing his re­turn to the pro­gram, even with a lesser ti­tle, as de­layed jus­tice.

In in­ter­views and e-mails, Churchill wrestling par­ents have re­ferred to Shapiro as “awe­some, lov­ing” and “an idol” with “a win­ning at­ti­tude” and “a smart, eth­i­cal guy.”

“[Now] I can start fo­cus­ing on things that ac­tu­ally mat­ter,” said Shapiro, a first-year head coach who was to earn a stipend of a lit­tle more than $4,000. He was con­sid­ered an “emer­gency coach” be­cause he works out­side the school sys­tem. “[Just] coach­ing the kids and fin­ish­ing out the sea­son as strong as we can and for­get­ting about this whole event.”

In his state­ment sub­mit­ted for the school in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Shapiro ac­knowl­edged that “in hind­sight it was not smart to bring in a ra­zor and cut a kid’s hair” and that he “was act­ing ir­re­spon­si­bly.” In an apol­ogy cir­cu­lated to the wrestlers and their fam­i­lies around that same time, Shapiro called the hair­cuts “a bad de­ci­sion” and “a mis­take I deeply re­gret.”

Shiun Huang, whose fam­ily filed the com­plaint against Shapiro and has re­quested that her son not be named by The Post, said there are sev­eral in­ac­cu­ra­cies in what Shapiro has stated in doc­u­ments and in TV in­ter­views. Most no­tably, Shapiro in­sists that he did not cut the hair of Huang’s son. Huang says that Shapiro cut about two-thirds of her son’s hair and then handed the clip­pers to a wrestler to fin­ish.

Huang’s fam­ily filed the com­plaint Jan. 3, hours af­ter their son was dis­missed from the team for hav­ing too many un­ex­cused ab­sences from prac­tice, ac­cord­ing to Shapiro. The hair­cuts hap­pened two weeks ear­lier. Shapiro be­lieves that if the boy had not been cut from the team that his fam­ily would not have filed the com­plaint.

Huang dis­putes that, say­ing the fam­ily did not lodge a for­mal com­plaint closer to the Dec. 20 in­ci­dent be­cause they wanted to think through their de­ci­sion and be­cause their son had been sick.

“No one can do any­thing to you with­out your con­sent,” Huang said. “And since you’re a mi­nor, even if you con­sent to it, it re­ally doesn’t count. The school is so care­ful about get­ting per­mis­sion slips signed for ev­ery­thing. Giv­ingmy son a hair­cut, al­ter­ing his ap­pear­ance, is a pretty big deal with­out the con­sent of a par­ent.”

Wes­ley Deaver, like many other wrestlers who were there that day, has signed a paper stat­ing that “ the hair­cuts were given in the spirit of fun, bond­ing and team­mate play and cer­tainly not forced.”

In Shapiro’s for­mal re­port, he said that Deaver had a jump rope wrapped over his shoul­ders but that once he sat down ei­ther the coach or Deaver threw the rope aside be­cause it was in the way of the hair­cut. Shapiro’s re­port also notes that: “I brought inmy clip­per one day and toldWes­ley af­ter prac­tice that we would cut his hair. He went into the bath­room be­fore­hand. The kids dur­ing this time were get­ting pretty ex­cited and chant­ing Wes­ley’s name.”

Given that en­vi­ron­ment, Mrs. Deaver thinks that some of the wrestlers were in­her­ently pres­sured to sign a state­ment ab­solv­ing Shapiro, who some­times plays paint­ball with his wrestlers on week­ends.

“[My son] may have been will­ing,” she said, “ but to shave a kid’s head while he’s tied with a jump rope is not re­ally some­thing that should hap­pen in school by a school em­ployee.”

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