A lawsuit has been filed against Jackson (Miss.) Public Schools on behalf of three Murrah High School basketball players who allege they were physically and verbally abused by Marlon Dorsey - a first-year coach who admits to whipping players with a weight belt. According to The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, the suit details other allegations against Dorsey, including invasion of privacy and "intentional infliction of emotional distress," claiming Dorsey used words like "sissy," "wimp" and "soft" when referring to players. In addition to Dorsey, it names assistant boys' basketball coach Brandon Sanders, Murrah principal Freddrick Murray and Jackson Public Schools.
Lisa Ross, attorney for the players, contends that a six-second video clip captured on a cellphone shows one of the players bent over in a school gymnasium as a man she claims is Dorsey swings a five- to 10-pound weight belt, hitting him three times in the buttocks. The cracks echo harshly as other players continue to practice. "It was outrageous," she said. The suit claims the whippings were doled out for failing to run plays correctly; Dorsey reportedly stated in a letter to parents that punishment was doled out for a number of reasons - including disrespecting teachers, stealing cellphones, leaving campus without permission, being tardy for class and not following dress code.
The Clarion-Ledger reports that Dorsey has been suspended with pay since late October. On Oct. 28, school and district officials met with approximately 30 parents about the matter, but there has been no official word from JPS - which says personnel matters cannot be discussed publicly "because of employee confidentiality."
In a statement provided to the Associated Press, Dorsey said the following: "I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis. I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students."
Corporal punishment has been banned in Jackson Public Schools since 1991, although WAPT-TV in Jackson reports that some districts in Mississippi allow corporal punishment with parents' permission. Bobby Barrett, a coach at Central Hinds Academy in Raymond, said corporal punishment can help students learn the consequences of their actions. "You know, discipline never hurt anybody. But there is a way to go about it," Barrett told the ABC affiliate.
A survey on WAPT's website asks visitors if they "think it's OK to discipline children by whipping or paddling them." More than half of the respondents indicated that "it's OK for a parent to do it," while 35 percent gave their approval "for a teacher or coach to do it." Only 13 percent of respondents said "it's never OK."