School board unanimous in decision to ban volunteer parent-coaches

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) - In an unanimous vote, the Berkeley County school board approved banning parents from volunteer coaching their own children at the varsity and junior varsity levels.

Defeated was the word many used after the policy change was approved. And many others were left wondering why something that has worked for generations is now being tossed out.

Board members say it's a policy change intended to fill high school coaching positions with qualified employees.

Todd Ellis is one of those people.

Ellis appears to be more than qualified - with one exception. He's a volunteer wrestling coach at Hanahan High School and his son is a rising sophomore who will try out for the wrestling team.

"I am certified as a USA wrestling coach. I am a boxing coach. I'm a USA weightlifting coach. I have certifications in nutrition, speed and agility. I've been doing this for 25 years," Ellis said.

Under the policy change, Ellis can't volunteer to coach unless he is given an exemption from the principal or his son decides not to try out.

"If you tell me that volunteer parent-coaches aren't allowed to do this or put restrictions on them, it is easy to infer that there is something wrong with volunteer parent-coaches," he said.

One driving force behind the new policy is concerns of favoritism shown to the sons and daughters of volunteer parent-coaches, board members said.

Many people asked for proof of favoritism happening. A petition against the policy was even presented.

"There are 512 people who signed this [petition]. That's even more people than who showed up for the last special election for school board. People are against this and it's your responsibility to represent those people," said Sally Walford, who started the petition.

In the end, the school board took about six minutes to decide to approve the policy for the county. And it's a decision that could send Ellis and many other volunteer parent-coaches from the sidelines to the stands.

The policy change is effective immediately.

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