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Wayne Township School Calendar

Attorneys say Ben Davis coach’s reinstatement raises ‘serious concerns’

INDIANAPOLIS – The reinstatement of an Indianapolis high school basketball coach doesn’t sit well with the family of a student involved in a physical altercation with him.

No Solution for Concerns with the Wayne Public Schools -
No Solution for Concerns with the Wayne Public Schools –

This week, the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township approved the return of Ben Davis basketball coach Don Carlisle for the 2024-2025 season.

Carlisle was placed on administrative leave in October 2023 after an incident involving him and a student made the rounds on social media. The video, taken on Sept. 6, 2023, at Ben Davis, showed Carlisle and the student involved in a physical altercation in which Carlisle took the student to the ground.

Wayne Township Public Schools School Calendar -
Wayne Township Public Schools School Calendar –

The video lasts about a minute. Carlisle spends approximately 30 seconds on top of the student. It happened during a physical education class.

Attorneys Catherine Michael of Connell Michael, LLP and Tammy Meyer of Metzger Rosta LLP, who represent the teen, said Carlisle’s response was excessive. The attorneys believe the student was subjected to an “unacceptable and egregious act of violence” and took issue with this week’s decision.

”It was shocking, upsetting,” Michael said. “I think it really sent a message to us and the family that the school truly just doesn’t care.”

Michael and Meyer said they found out about Carlisle being reinstated like everyone else did, on the news.

“We had not had that communicated to us,” Michael said. “The school is well aware that the family is represented. It was not communicated to the family either.”

Michael said the altercation with Carlisle caused physical and psychological harm to the student involved.

”It was unbelievable what we saw,” said Meyer. “And watching the school video, as well, it is completely unbelievable that a teacher would do something like during the school day in the gymnasium with cameras running.”

To be clear, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office decided against charging Carlisle with any crimes.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Wayne Township Schools said the two parties, Carlisle and Wayne Twp. Schools, agreed with provisions for Carlisle to return to his teaching and coaching job in the 2024-2025 school year.

FOX59/CBS4 asked for more specifics on those provisions. In response, the spokesperson said Carlisle was required to complete trainings mandated by the school administration for him to return.

“In addition to completing the terms of the diversion agreement with the Marion County Prosecutors’ office, Mr. Carlisle will be required to complete a professional development plan with the school district that is still being finalized. Mr. Carlisle’s potential return will not occur until the 2024-2025 school year.”

”I don’t think there should be an agreement to let this person back in the building,” Michael said.

Just more than four months since the initial incident, Michael and Meyer said there has been no communication between Carlisle and the student and his family.

”One would think there would have been an apology to the student and to his family, one would think he would have been consulted. None of that was done,” Meyer said.

Carlisle’s former attorney previously said the video didn’t show the first part of the encounter in which the student ripped a necklace off Carlisle’s neck and attacked Carlisle. Carlisle’s new representation, Katie Jackson-Lindsay, agreed that is what the video footage reflects.

Michael and Meyer, on the other hand, said they had viewed the school surveillance camera video and the student did not attack Carlisle.

”If the school thinks there is provocation then show us that on the videotape,” Meyer said. “We haven’t seen that [provocation] at all.”

Michael and Meyer said they are now planning on pursuing legal action against the Wayne Township Schools and have filed a tort claim.

A spokesperson for the school system acknowledged the tort claim had been received but said they would not be commenting at this time.

Don Carlisle’s attorney Katie Jackson-Lindsay released this statement after the decision to reinstate Carlisle had been announced.

“Don Carlisle has a reputation in this community as a respected licensed educator as well as a decorated and dedicated coach. He’s made it his life’s work to not only be an educator, but also a mentor in the Indianapolis community. The appropriate entities have evaluated his conduct and their conclusions are the result of months long investigations into all circumstances surrounding the incident.  The decisions of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office not to pursue charges and Wayne Township to reinstate his employment at the conclusion of these thorough independent investigations will allow Coach Carlisle to continue in this spirit of service and further his legacy of great work.”

Michael and Meyer said this sends the wrong message to every Wayne Township family.

From their statement:

Let us be clear: abuse by any superior, particularly within an educational setting, is intolerable and indefensible under any circumstances. Such conduct is a gross violation of professional ethics and the duty of care owed to students. The video where this occurred shows the conduct of the employee as well as the excessive response from this educator and is not open to interpretation. The video depicts the coach pushing this young man to the floor and hitting him repeatedly. Any allegation that our client harmed or attacked this school employee in any manner that would result in such an excessive and abusive response is refuted by the video evidence in this case. 

We are further dismayed and profoundly troubled by the school’s decision to rehire this individual as is being reported in the media. This action not only demonstrates a shocking disregard for student welfare in Wayne Township Schools but also amounts to institutional negligence of the highest order. Rehiring an individual who has abused their authority so flagrantly is not only a failure of the school’s duty to protect its students but is also a morally reprehensible act that undermines the very essence of a safe educational environment.

This issue transcends the immediate case of our clients’ child; it raises serious concerns about the safety and well-being of all students within this School Corporation. Our clients demand full accountability from those responsible for both the initial act of abuse and the subsequent decision to reinstate the coach.

Attorneys Catherine Michael and Tammy Meyer

Here’s part of the district’s message to Ben Davis basketball families about Carlisle’s return:

We are writing to provide an important update regarding Mr. Carlisle and his future with M.S.D. of Wayne Township. After careful consideration and discussions between Mr. Carlisle and the District, we are pleased to share that we have reached an agreement with provisions that will allow for his return as a teacher and head basketball coach for the 2024-2025 school year.

Both parties have expressed our commitment to moving forward in a positive manner. We believe this agreement provides an opportunity for Mr. Carlisle to continue making valuable contributions to our school community.

MSD of Wayne Township

Carlisle led Ben Davis to a 33-0 record and a Class 4A state championship last season. Corey Taylor was appointed interim head coach and will continue to lead the team this season, with Carlisle set to return for the 2024-2025 school year.

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