ENID, Okla. – The parents of a former Kingfisher High School football player suing the district for alleged abuse say their son once begged them not to report the incidents out of fear of retaliation from his classmates and coaches.
The parents of John Doe No. 1 (whose legal anonymity has been granted under court ruling) said they did not learn of the incidents taking place with their son for a long time.
“(Doe) tried very, very hard to hide it from us for an extended period of time, and he was able to do so,” his father told the News & Eagle last week. “But ultimately the evidence just became overwhelming that we knew something wasn’t right.”
When asked about the multiple bruises all over his body – which Doe’s father said should be prevented with pads – Doe, then 15, would tell them, “It’s just football.”
But after weeks of questioning him about the injuries, Doe’s father said his son broke down sobbing, beginning to reveal some of the alleged near-daily beatings, whippings, drill practices and other harassment.
He said his son begged them to not share the information because he was fearful of what would happen to him at school.
His father also said Doe loved football and thought his chances of getting to play on the field would go away if he ever reported anything, telling them, “It will get better.”
The parents said they wouldn’t learn of the full extent of the alleged abuse until after Doe graduated from Kingfisher High School last year.
“My mama heart’s been hurt, for sure,” Doe’s mother said. “It’s … it’s been difficult. And I have a lot of anger … toward our school system. “
On July 29, 2021, Doe filed a lawsuit in Kingfisher County District Court against Kingfisher Public Schools, the high school’s longtime head football coach Jeff Myers and current and former assistant coaches Derek Patterson, Blake Eaton and Micah Nall.
Following a private investigation with Doe’s attorney, January’s petition filing includes around 25 statements from current and former players, students and parents about alleged incidents dating back to 2008.
Two audio recordings of threats on Snapchat from another student against Doe and his mother are part of the investigation.
“You have a 15-year-old kid who’s been … completely humiliated and demeaned, and these upperclassmen are threatening to kill his mom, if he talks – he’s not going to want to talk, and he’s not going to want to report it, ”Doe’s father said.
Doe, now in college, said he didn’t think he’d lose as many friendships as he had since filing the suit.
“I thought that everyone would support me and be on my side because of what I went through,” he said. “It’s made me stronger and showed (me) that you need to pick your friends carefully.”
Doe’s legal dispute with the district and his former coaches is making its way through the federal district court system, as Doe alleges both constitutional and federal Title IX violations.
Both the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the State Department of Education are investigating Kingfisher’s football program.
Before the lawsuit, Doe’s father said he had spoken with Myers on two separate occasions while Doe was in high school, as well as with Kingfisher’s new superintendent about the alleged abuse.
Superintendent Daniel Craig, who began his position last July, reportedly told Doe’s father, “If you want the truth to come out, you’re going to have to sue us,” according to a petition.
Shortly afterward, Doe and his family met with Oklahoma City attorney Cameron Spradling and filed the lawsuit, a week shy of Doe’s 19th birthday.
His father said they received no communication from the school district in the subsequent five and a half months, until the initial petition was amended in January earlier this year.
Doe’s father said Kingfisher Public Schools also was given a 30-day window to respond to a $ 1.5 million settlement offer, which he said was met with no communication even after another 30-day extension was granted.
The board unanimously rejected the offer during a meeting last week, with school officials giving no reason why they turned it down.
“(We made) every effort possible to get this thing resolved without going the route in which it’s gone now, which is the press and humiliation and the embarrassment of the community,” Doe’s father said. “But I feel very, very strongly that we’ve done our part to try to get them to talk with us and listen to us, and they just simply refused.”
Doe’s father said he isn’t claiming Myers abused every single boy who went through the football program.
“Our point is that there are a handful of kids that Myers would target,” Doe’s father said. “It just so happened that (Doe) got it the worst.”
Doe’s father said the family does not know why Myers allegedly targeted their son, while also claiming that alleged abuse did not occur in other programs.
However, a former high school student of Myers’ now is also alleging sexual harassment beyond the football team as far back as 2005.
Maleah Ashcraft told the News & Eagle last week she experienced daily verbal abuse from Myers while she was in his science class when Ashcraft was 16 or 17 years old.
She said the teacher would use a sexualized nickname toward her in class and in the hallway.
She also said she believes his bullying carried over to the football team, and after a period of time, some of the players started treating her differently.
Ashcraft said Myers’ comments made her feel angry, but she was confused because she respected the authority of educators like her mother, a former KPS teacher.
Eventually, Ashcraft said she’d finally had enough and stood up to him after he had used the nickname during roll call in class.
She said Myers told her to get out of the classroom and locked the door as she left. She sat in the hallway for several minutes until the high school’s then-principal walked by.
The principal took her into the library, where she told him about what had occurred and that she “couldn’t handle this anymore,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft, who has worked previously with Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office, was then placed into the alternative school. At the time, she said she was thankful to be out of the hostile environment.
She claimed Myers also made offensive remarks to another girl in the classroom and said that he had “verbally degraded” some of her friends who were on the football team in the mid-2000s to the point of them quitting.
Ashcraft said she brought up her alleged incidents with Myers on a social media post after allegations came out of then-assistant coach Nall enabling child abuse.
In May 2021, Nall pleaded guilty to obstructing and delaying a police officer during the investigation. Nall received a one-year deferred sentence, was fined $ 200 and was not allowed to coach at any school-sponsored sport for a year. He resigned from Kingfisher Public Schools a month later.
Ashcraft said she wanted to come forward to validate what Doe and other players have claimed happened and to encourage others who may have been or still are afraid to speak up.
“I am absolutely aware that my situation pales in comparison to what these boys recently have gone through,” Ashcraft said. “The only reason I’m doing this is because I feel like God’s placed it on my heart to stand up for them … so that they know there is an adult who is willing to fight for them.”
The News & Eagle reached out to Myers on Monday evening for comment but did not hear back by press time.
Former Kingfisher superintendent Jason Sternberger, who took the job as superintendent of nearby Hennessey Public Schools in spring 2021, declined to comment to the News & Eagle on Monday about the decade he spent leading Kingfisher. Sternberger, whose three sons also have attended or attend Kingfisher, said he didn’t want to publicly comment if he were to become involved in the ongoing case.