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Whistleblower says he was unfairly fired following Canton McKinley High School pizza-eating incident

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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CANTON, Ohio (WOIO) - The whistleblower who alerted school officials about the alleged actions of Canton McKinley High School coaches said he was unfairly punished.

It’s been over a week since the vote that rocked the high school football program.

Seven Canton McKinley football coaches, including Head Coach Marcus Wattley, were fired after a punishment, last month, involving a player.

The coaches were let go from their coaching positions after a unanimous vote by the Canton City Board of Education last Thursday.

Besides Wattley, the other coaches canned include Cade Brodie, Tyler Thatcher, Romero Harris, Frank McLeod, Zachary Sweat, and Josh Grimsley. Some of their jobs off the field now hang in the balance.

“What happened on May 24th was an ill-managed attempt to instill discipline in our students. The type of behavior that took place was inappropriate, divisive, and demeaning,” said Canton City School District Superintendent Jeff Talbert.

The coaches allegedly punished the student for missing a voluntary workout by forcing him to eat a pepperoni pizza against his religious beliefs.

The student and his family are Hebrew Israelite and keep kosher, meaning they don’t eat pork.

“What the school district is doing to Josh is unconscionable at this point,” attorney Richard Blake told 19 News.

Blake is referring to Josh Grimsley, one of the coaches who was fired.

Blake represents Grimsley and said his client is the one who informed school officials of the incident involving the student-athlete.

He told 19 News that Grimsley was unfairly punished.

“Josh came in from coaching baseball. He came into a scene he was unprepared for and that was the head coach and the other assistant coaches; what he saw as sort of a bullying type of situation for the student,” said Blake.

Blake said Grimsley had no knowledge of the student’s dietary restrictions and that he immediately informed his supervisor of what he witnessed.

“He had absolutely nothing to do with the activity with the student. He’s loyal to the school, he’s loyal to the students,” said Blake.

The school district filed a report with the Canton Police Department, according to a statement shared with 19 News.

Police are investigating the incident as possible hazing, the statement said.

“Our results will be turned over to the Canton City Prosecutor’s Office for a determination on any charges,” Police Chief Jack Angelo said in the statement.

“Let him get back to work and clear this up,” Blake said.

School officials will hold a disciplinary hearing for Grimsley on Monday to discuss his employment with the school outside of coaching.

Grimsley currently also serves as a school resource assistant.

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