Parents of ousted Salmen basketball players meet with school officials for 2 1/2 hours; waiting to hear if girls will be reinstated _lowres

Photo provided by David Folse -- Less than 24 hours after they refused to play in a game because they claimed concerns about their new coach were not being properly addressed, seven girls basketball players at Salmen High School in Slidell were kicked off the team Wednesday.

The seven Salmen High School girls basketball players who were suspended from the team in November will remain suspended from the team.

Salmen Principal Brennan McCurley announced the decision in a statement Monday afternoon.

“I stand by Coach Panos Bountovinas and am upholding his decision to suspend seven players on the girls basketball team for not following team rules,” the statement said.

“The decision was made solely because these seven players failed to show up for a game and did not notify the coaches that they would be absent, leaving the team with only five players to compete on the varsity level.”

Parents of the suspended players wouldn’t say if they will pursue legal action, but one of the parents confirmed they have retained legal counsel.

The seven players — Kayla Sibley, Darnelle Webb, Myrezonte Cooper, Amara Bickham, Jazmine McKain, Antoinette Neal and Brianna Rudolph — boycotted a game in late November against Cabrini High School and were suspended from the team the next day.

The players said they didn’t show up for the game because their concerns about some of Bountovinas’ actions were not being heard by school leaders.

Myles Cooper, a parent of one of the suspended players, said the principal never sat down with the players to find out why they missed the game.

Cooper said none of the players had the head coach’s telephone number to notify him they weren’t coming to the game, but he said players notified the team’s two assistant coaches, Wendy Stampley and Joshua Chausse.

Cooper also expressed concern about transportation for the team to and from games.

“Every sport at the school except girls basketball has transportation,” he said. “The girls are being neglected. My daughter had to drive herself and two other girls to Baton Rouge in the rain when I was out of town. The girls have to get to the game the best way they can.”

Prior to taking over at the Slidell school this season, Bountovinas coached girls’ basketball at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans for two seasons. He guided the team to the Class 5A state championship in the 2013-14 season but resigned shortly before the start of the 2014-15 season.

Concerns about why he resigned were one of three issues raised in an email parents sent to St. Tammany Parish schools Superintendent W.L. “Trey” Folse III in November. The New Orleans Advocate obtained a copy of the email.

The other two items addressed concerns about Bountovinas’ presence in the girls’ locker room and about his not being concerned about the players’ grades.

In a statement sent out the day the girls were suspended, Folse said, “A thorough investigation by the St. Tammany Parish public school system has found that allegations brought up in regards to the Salmen High girls basketball coach are unfounded.”

Sibley, one of the suspended players, said she wasn’t comfortable with the way Bountovinas frequently touched her, calling him “very feely.”

She also said that twice during the season, a female assistant coach had to ask Bountovinas to leave the locker room while the girls were dressing.

That assistant coach, Stampley, recently stepped down from her position. She has not been able to be reached for comment.

“This in itself is unacceptable in the smallest form,” the email from the concerned parents said of the allegation about the coach’s presence in the locker room. “This also was downplayed by our principal as he promised to investigate and give our coach due process.”

McCurley’s statement Monday disputes the claim that the parents’ concerns weren’t heard.

“As principal of Salmen High School, I have been meeting with the parents of the basketball team players since I first hired our new coach,” McCurley said in the statement. “Their allegations that I have not been at the table with them are false. Some of the parents and students were not happy with the hiring decision and decided the best way to handle that was through a protest.”