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Western Reserve removes Pierson as coach after alleged 'inappropriate behavior'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Mar 7, 2018 at 12:12 AM

COLLINS — Western Reserve girls’ basketball coach Laura Pierson is no longer acting as the team’s leader following alleged “inappropriate behavior” linked to text messages with her players.

After nearly a month of investigating by the Reflector, Western Reserve Local Schools Superintendent Rodge Wilson on Monday released a letter sent to parents Feb. 7 stating the Lady Riders coach is suspended from acting as coach until further notice. 

The Reflector repeatedly asked Wilson about Pierson’s coaching status. Wilson stated “both her contracts (as a school counselor and coaching) are active,” meaning she is still being paid on both contracts, but did not provide further details. 

After the newspaper became aware that there was a letter sent home to parents and that assistant coach and school district treasurer Brett Robson was serving as acting coach at the Lady Riders’ games, a request was made Feb. 19 for a copy of the letter and a statement about whether Pierson was still the coach. 

Wilson responded Monday morning with a copy of the letter and again confirmed both of Pierson’s contracts are “active.” He added, however, that Robson is serving as the acting head coach, leading the basketball team to the regional semifinals for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

The letter, written by middle and high school Principal Lisa Border, said Pierson “has been removed from her coaching duties pending an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior.” Border said the school was acting in accord with both board policy and state law, citing the students’ “well being” as the school’s primary concern.

The principal went on to ask parents to see if their children have received any text messages from Pierson, adding parents should take time to review all of those messages if so.

The Reflector requested to see Pierson's personnel file and any text messages. Wilson sent empty reports from the district's Remind app, which faculty are supposed to use for text messaging. When the newspaper further specified it would like “any texts or emails that were between (Pierson) and her players, be them through the work app or otherwise,” Wilson said he will review for others, but anticipated federal law would shield them from being release to the media.

The Lady Riders have advanced to the Sweet 16, following Saturday’s double-overtime win over Margaretta in the Division III district championship game at Shelby High School. The team will face Amanda-Clearcreek at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lexington High School.

The school’s board of education is holding a special session the following night. The meeting was scheduled for “general purposes” and to enter into executive session “to discuss the employment of a public employee,” according to a press release. The 6 p.m. Thursday meeting will be held in the board office conference room.

Below is the letter sent to parents on Feb. 7:

“Dear Parent or Guardian,

“Beginning Feb. 7 and until further notice, Laura Pierson has been removed from her coaching duties pending an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“Athletic director Ryan Falknor and principal Lisa Border met with the varsity and junior varsity players and coaches today to explain to them that Coach (Brett) Robson will lead the Lady Riders through the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

“We are disappointed that we feel it necessary to take this step, but the well-being of our students is our primary concern and we must act consistent with the board policy and state law to ensure a safe and positive environment for them. 

“I encourage you to ask your child whether she has received any text messages from Coach Pierson and, if so, to review those messages and call Athletic Director Ryan Falknor at 419-668-8470 x. 2008 or myself at 419-678-8470 x. 2001 immediately with any concerns. 

“As always, the Western Reserve Local Schools are committed to working with you to ensure the best possible environment for our students and we are happy to meet with you to discuss this or any other concerns you may have.

“Sincerely, Lisa Border, Principal”

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