Medina Valley ISD stays silent about allegations against its athletic director - San Antonio Express-News

Medina Valley High School senior Nick Rash, 18, is pictured at home near Castroville with his parents, Jeremy Rash and Angkhana “Oh” Rash, who have accused Medina Valley ISD’s athletic director of bullying student athletes, including Nick.
Angkhana “Oh” Rash looks over to the television in her home near Castroville last week. She has joined other parents in accusing Medina Valley ISD’s athletic director of bullying student athletes, including her 18-year-old son Nick.
Steven Tomaselli and his son Troy Tomaselli, 17, at their home in Castroville last week. Unhappy with Medina Valley High School’s athletic director and football coach, Troy changed schools and his dad has joined a group of parents criticizing school district leaders for not responding to complaints about him.
Medina Valley High School senior Nick Rash, 18, is pictured at home near Castroville last week. Nick was the school’s starting quarterback but almost quit because his head coach mocked his speech impediment. Nick’s parents have joined others in blasting school district leaders for not responding to repeated complaints.
Angkhana “Oh” Rash talks with her son Nick Rash, 18, at home in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 27, 2022.
Steven Tomaselli helps his son Troy Tomaselli, 17, put on his gold cross necklace as Troy gets ready to head out for an appointment at their home in Castroville last week. Troy changed schools to get away from Medina Valley’s High School’s head football coach, and his parents have joined others in accusing the school district of not responding to complaints that the coach bullies students.
Troy Tomaselli, 17, walks past framed photos of him playing football as he heads out the door at his home in Castroville last week. Troy changed schools to get away from Medina Valley’s High School’s head football coach, and his parents have joined others in accusing the school district of not responding to complaints that the coach bullies students.
On Jan. 12, Medina Valley Independent School District became a finalist for best small school district in the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards — a statewide honor that came as a shock to parents who believe district leaders have been protecting its athletic director against repeated complaints that started last fall.
Parents said Lee Crisp, who is also the head football coach at the district’s high school, has mocked an athlete’s speech impediment, hazed and insulted a subordinate in front of several colleagues, bullied students to motivate them and routinely violated UIL practice time limits.
A Jan. 1 letter to the school district’s superintendent and trustees listed these and numerous other allegations and a copy has since attracted more than 60 signatures.
One of the parents who helped draft the letter spoke at length about it before the district’s board of trustees during public comments at a meeting Jan. 18.
District officials won’t say if they took any action in response. Crisp did not respond to requests for comment.
“I’m appalled at the behavior of Coach Crisp, but I’m more appalled that this seems to have been covered up by our superintendent and our school board,” said Sarah Sargent, a parent who pulled her son out of Medina Valley High School last month, partly because of the district’s handling of the allegations.
“It is a huge hypocrisy,” said Sargent, a nurse practitioner who has lived in Castroville for almost seven years. “It does not send a message to kids that they are going to be held accountable — that having a high moral character is important because that is what is going to carry you through life.”
Employees who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to news media say administrators placed Crisp on paid leave pending an investigation.
The district’s spokeswoman, Selena Viera, would not describe Crisp’s employment status.
Medina Valley High School senior Nick Rash, 18, is pictured at home near Castroville last week. Nick grew disenchanted with football when his head coach mocked his speech impediment, he said, and Nick’s parents are accusing the school district of not responding to repeated complaints about the coach.
Trustees who responded to interview requests referred questions about Crisp to Viera and declined comment, except for one, Paula Davidson, who said earlier complaints about the athletic director made by district employees to the superintendent “were not investigated thoroughly enough.”
“Our community would not be going through all of this now if the concerns were addressed earlier,” she added. “I wish the board and the superintendent had taken these concerns more seriously.”
Davidson said she could not comment on specific complaints and stressed that she was speaking for herself, not the board.
Other sources with knowledge of the exchange said the superintendent, Kenneth Rohrbach, agreed with four employees who approached him in October that their allegations about Crisp were concerning, but they saw no evidence that an investigation was started.
At least one incident mentioned in the parents’ letter was years old. In 2019, Crisp walked into the coaches’ office, picked up the computer mouse of a first-year coach he was in the process of reassigning to other duties and stuck it inside his shorts, according to two people who were there and described it in separate interviews.
Watched by more than half a dozen people, Crisp rubbed it around his crotch, then placed it back on the desk of its owner, who later quit, the two sources said.
Viera, the Medina Valley ISD spokeswoman, declined to answer questions about Crisp, beyond an emailed statement that did not name him.
“The district has been made aware of allegations against one of its employees. The standard procedure for responding to receipt of these types of allegations is to conduct an investigation to determine whether or not the allegations are supported by persons with firsthand knowledge or by other tangible facts.
“The district does not comment on rumors or unsubstantiated allegations in order to avoid harming the employee’s reputation,” Viera wrote. “Once any investigation is completed, the administration takes such action as is warranted by the facts found.”
Persons with firsthand knowledge about some of the allegations said they still have not been questioned.
Medina Valley High School senior Nick Rash, 18, with his mother Angkhana “Oh” Rash at home near Castroville last week. Medina Valley’s Athletic Director has been accused of bullying student athletes, including Nick.
Medina Valley ISD has been ranked as a top school district by the Texas Education Agency for years, earning an A in 2019, the most recent year the agency has issued grades. Its enrollment has grown along with subdivisions sprouting in the farmland and hills near Castroville, and has reached 6,904 students.
More than a dozen parents and district employees, current and former, who were interviewed for this story say a hometown “good ‘ol boys” attitude has prevented the district from effectively responding to complaints.
For months last fall, Medina Valley High School’s starting quarterback, Nick Rash, came home from practice saying he wanted to quit. His parents, Jeremy and Angkhana “Oh” Rash, figured he didn’t like being told what to do or wasn’t adjusting to change.
The family has lived just outside Castroville since 2013. Jeremy Rash is the sales director for a water company and Oh Rash left retail management last year to spend more time with their kids. Two of their sons already have graduated from the high school.
Steven Tomaselli helps his son Troy Tomaselli, 17, put on his gold cross necklace as Troy gets ready to head out for an appointment at their home in Castroville last week. Troy changed schools to get away from Medina Valley’s High School’s head football coach, and his parents have joined others in accusing the school district of not responding to complaints that the coach bullies students.
His parents encouraged Nick to keep playing, but things got worse, they said.
“We noticed his lack of confidence and just his attitude deteriorate, and it is his senior year,” his mother said. “This is a game he grew up loving and he enjoyed playing, this is something he worked for his whole life.”
District employees told them Crisp had been making fun of their son’s lisp. Nick confirmed it. When he called a play “bash” instead of “pass” Crisp laughed and encouraged other players to also laugh, he said.
“It bothered me that it was coming from my head coach because he’s my head coach and shouldn’t be making fun of that,” Nick said. “Instead of having fun, it felt like it was turning into a job.”
From elementary school until he entered high school, Nick had been in speech therapy provided by the district.
“It took him a lot to overcome his disability,” Oh Rash said. “No one has ever teased him about it or made fun of him for it … You would think the first would be a kid who would do it, not an adult.”
Nick finished out the football season. His dad said he “almost fell over” when he later discovered his son’s laptop password disparaged Crisp.
“What do I do as a father?” Jeremy Rash said. “I feel I failed as a parent because I backed the head coach for a long time and told my son to play through it when obviously there was something bigger going on.
“But I feel more concerned with the leadership at the high school that they didn’t do anything,” he said.
Steven Tomaselli and his son Troy Tomaselli, 17, are pictured at their home in Castroville last week. Unhappy with Medina Valley High School’s athletic director and football coach, Troy changed schools and his dad has joined a group of parents criticizing school district leaders for not responding to complaints about him.
Some of the complaints about Crisp allege that he bent or broke rules as head coach of a team whose record in recent years has been mixed. Medina Valley won three games and lost eight last season.
In October, Crisp did not allow one of his athletes, Tymere Garrett, to get on the bus to return home after taking him out of an away game in Lockhart because of his behavior.
Tymere said he was angry because opponents were ripping his jersey and the referees weren’t calling it a foul. After the game, “he told me ‘You aren’t getting on that bus,’” Tymere said. “He made me ride with my friends’ parents.”
Other players at the game confirmed this story. According to Medina Valley’s Athletic Department handbook, such an alternative travel arrangement must be approved prior to the game.
“I travel for work so I’m when I’m gone, I trust when he goes to his football games he is going to be OK,” said Tashana Carmichael, Tymere’s mom. “And now I have to be more concerned when he goes out.”
Employees, parents and students say Crisp regularly holds practices that total longer than the UIL weekly limit of eight hours, a cap created to preserve the school day for academics.
Boerne ISD athletic director Stan Leech, who is the UIL’s district executive committee chair for Medina Valley ISD’s football league, said no one has reported the program for overpracticing.
If he had heard that, Leech said, his job would be to alert the Medina Valley administration.
“It is up to (the administration) if they are going to search to deal with it,” Leech said. “Basically, first the district could do a private reprimand (of the coach) to let them know, so they can stop. … If it didn’t stop, then it would go to the TEA and it could take some legs.”
Leech said he had heard no complaints about Crisp.
“My relations with Lee Crisp are awesome,” he said. “He does a great job with the athletic program and his football team. I have nothing but the best respect for Lee Crisp and all of Medina Valley. He is an honorable guy.”
Among the signers of the parents’ letter was Steven Tomaselli, who had two sons in the football program after moving to Castroville in 2014. He has a chiropractor practice in Uvalde.
He said he pulled his younger son, Troy, out of Medina Valley High School because of Crisp’s coaching, including how he treated Troy and others — “calling out players, making fun of players, going after players.”
Troy now goes to Cornerstone Christian School. His older brother decided to stay because he didn’t want to interrupt his senior year.
Troy, 17, said Crisp is a “great person.”
“But it is just sad because he made seniors quit this year, quit the game that they love, because they were so tired of him,” Troy said.
His father said the school district needs “a complete change of leadership,” including its board.
“This was handed to the principal and the superintendent in October, and they did nothing about it. Nothing,” Tomaselli said. “It is a small town; they don’t want to make any ripples. So they just sweep it under the table. But this is more than a ripple. This is really important.”
claire.bryan@express-news.net
Claire Bryan joined the Express-News education team in August 2021. She previously worked as a business reporter at the Albany Times Union and an education reporter at Chalkbeat. She began her journalism career as a fact-checker for Condé Nast’s portfolio of magazines and Harper’s Magazine. Claire completed her master’s degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a Stabile Investigative Reporting fellow. She is originally from San Diego.

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