Parents and students who are unhappy that a Zachary High School soccer coach was removed from his position turned out in force Tuesday at the School Board meeting to express their disapproval of the decision.
The coach in question is Kyle Callihan, who coached the girls soccer team and was released from the role in January. Parents at the meeting said the move came amid allegations — on which they did not elaborate but said were found to be untrue — that two players made about Callihan.
Callihan, who works as a sergeant in the Baton Rouge Police Department, has served as a coach in a volunteer capacity for two years. He attended the meeting Tuesday but referred a reporter to a parent of a soccer player acting as a spokesman for questions.
Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, said the department is aware of the issue involving Callihan, who works in the downtown Baton Rouge area and has been with the department for about 20 years.
Superintendent Scott Devillier said he could not provide any details, as they concern a confidential personnel matter.
At least 20 players and parents stood along the back wall of the room during the Tuesday's meeting, many of them wearing red T-shirts that read “Keep Coach Kyle.”
The board listened to two parents make comments but did not discuss or take any action on the matter.
Raymond Albert, whose daughter is on the soccer team, described Callihan as a man of integrity who has the respect of team members and parents alike. He said Devillier has assured parents that Callihan did not do anything “illegal, immoral or unethical,” but the superintendent still has not agreed to help reinstate the coach.
Albert said the first allegations came early this season after a player cursed out Callihan and her teammates. Callihan told the girl she could return to the team if she apologized, Albert said, but she did not do so.
Albert said a second team member lodged allegations of wrongdoing against Callihan more recently.
One of the players and her mother "bullied the administration" into firing Callihan, Albert said. He wants Devillier to sit down with Callihan and tell him what he needs to do to become coach again, whether that means fixing specific problems or improving in certain areas.
Donald Leese, another parent of a soccer player, said Callihan lifted the team’s spirits and performance.
“He has the program moving in the right direction in only his second year — going from a record last year of only three wins, to this year, we made the playoffs,” Leese told the board.
Leese said Callihan still has broad support from his team and their families.
“If I had any concern for my daughter’s safety, I’d remove her from the situation,” Leese said in an interview. “That’s not the case here.”