High School Football Coach Charged With Child Neglect in Violent Hazing Rite Called 'The Ring': Authorities
An Oklahoma high school coach has been charged with a felony in connection with allegations of a violent hazing rite in which students reported physical and sexual abuse.
An Oklahoma high school football coach has been charged with felony child neglect over allegations that players suffered physical and sexual abuse for years during a hazing rite known as "The Ring."
Jeffrey Kent Myers, 56, was the head coach at Kingfisher High School. He was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after he was charged with allegedly allowing violent fights in the campus locker room, where students attacked each other, resulting in injuries, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
State agents began investigating Myers and school officials after a federal lawsuit was filed more than two years ago on behalf of a former student who said he was beaten, tased, sexually assaulted and humiliated during a traditional team rite called "The Ring." During the rite, team members allegedly hit, kicked, and beat each other, sometimes with wet towels, inside a circle formed by football players who screamed and taunted the fighters.
“This is a lawsuit about hazing. Hazing that rose to the level of torture,” the lawsuit claims. "The Kingfisher High School football team employed a practice of hazing new members of the team. This hazing was well-known throughout the team, school administration and athletic coaches,” the lawsuit alleges.
"The Ring" was condoned and watched by the coaches, including Myers, the plaintiff's lawyers claimed. The Kingfisher Police Department asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in February 2022 to examine the allegations, according to court records.
State investigators submitted their written findings to local prosecutors five months ago. The agents interviewed school officials, reviewed documents including depositions given in the civil lawsuit and questioned 14 former players who admitted they knew, witnessed or participated in "The Ring," according to an arrest warrant filed earlier this week. Several players said they had seen Myers watching the fights, the document alleges.
“During the course of the investigation, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agents learned that football players were left alone and most of the time not supervised by an adult or faculty member," the arrest warrant alleges.
"Nothing is more important to Kingfisher Public Schools than the safety, health and well-being of our students,” Kingfisher superintendent David Glover said in a statement Wednesday. “As a school district, we reaffirm our commitment to provide a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for every student and student athlete.”
Glover said the district would not comment further, saying the case is a personnel issue.
The school district is a defendant in the civil lawsuit, but has not publicly commented, citing the ongoing criminal probe.
Myers coached the team for nearly 20 years, during which time the team won a state championship and was noted for its winning seasons. He has denied any wrongdoing during his tenure. He pleaded not guilty to the child neglect charge this week. He was released on $15,000 bail, according to court records. His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.
"This man's name has been dragged through the mud and he's been unfairly tried and prosecuted in the public, in the news and on social media for the past five years," Myers' attorney Joe White said in a statement. "We are glad to finally have an opportunity to defend ourselves in the proper venue — a court of law."
Also charged this week were former assistant coach Micah Nall, school board member Dana Golbek and Justin Mecklenburg, the father of the former player who filed the lawsuit.
Nall was charged with child abuse, an allegation that stemmed from a deposition he gave in the federal lawsuit, state investigators said. In that sworn testimony, Nall acknowledged that "all coaches" knew about "The Ring," and that he had once participated in it and fought a young student, something he now regretted, he said.
Golbek and Mecklenburg were charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse. Both pleaded not guilty Wednesday. Their next court hearings are scheduled for Nov. 8.
According to state investigators, the father and the school board member failed to report the teen's alleged abuse to the proper authorities. Mecklenburg said he feared reprisals against his son, who was still in school at the time, if he went to the police, according to state investigators. Golbek said she reported what she knew to her supervisor and believed it was being handled, but didn't notify law enforcement or social service authorities, according to state investigators.
The civil lawsuit allegations against Kingfisher coaches and "The Ring" participants are horrific. The hazing rite was designed to "weed out" weaker players and "toughen up" team members, the lawsuit claims.
In an April 2023 court filing demanding a settlement in the lawsuit, the former student's lawyers wrote:
“In the locker room, upperclassmen would whip the younger players with wet towels until they bled, or hit them with a stun gun while they were tying their shoes. Older boys would urinate in the younger players’ helmets, put the helmets in the freezer, and then watch as the urine melted down the younger players’ faces during practice,” the letter says.
The settlement demand letter also alleged a football player hanged himself after experiencing abuse, and that their client was held down on the locker room floor by teammates while another player shoved his naked genitals into the boy's face and mouth.
"Tragically, the administration in Kingfisher has allowed a predator to roam the halls of Kingfisher High School," the plaintiff's lawyers said. "This predator has engaged in conduct and/or tolerated conduct that has resulted in the mental and physical abuse and sexual assault of minor children while at school."
The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages on behalf of the former student and the firing of coach Myers. The trial is scheduled for December.
Trending on Inside Edition
NHL Star and His Brother Accused of Raping College Student in LawsuitCrime
Why Do More People Seem to Be Getting Sick This Flu Season?Health
Tips for Leaving Creepy Crawlies at the Christmas Tree FarmOffbeat
Alex Murdaugh Sentenced to 27 Years in Plea Deal After Admitting to 22 Financial CrimesCrime
A Toy Story: How the Hess Truck Became a Holiday Staple and Conjures Up Childhood Nostalgia for SomeOffbeat
Riley Keough Gets $7.5M From Lisa Marie Trust, Pays Priscilla $2.35M to be Sole Trustee of Estate: SettlementEntertainment