RENO, Nev. (KOLO) More than a hundred parents, coaches, teachers, and students packed the Washoe County School District offices Tuesday afternoon, all demanding justice for Coach Ron Malcolm.
Coach Malcolm has spent nearly 30 years teaching and coaching in Washoe County, most recently at Wooster High School. But allegations of racist comments made to a 15-year-old student athlete forced the district to relieve him of his coaching duties. His supporters commandeered the Board of Trustees regular meeting, asking for Malcolm to be reinstated.
"He is not a racist, and he is not a bully," one man said.
Last month, the parents of a 15-year-old athlete went before the WCSD Board of Trustees demanding Coach Malcolm be fired for his alleged comments against their daughter claiming the color of her skin was inhibiting her on the volleyball court.
"He said it again in front of the whole team," the student's father Ken Chatfield said. "That Hannah messed up because she's black."
The incident wasn't on Tuesday's meeting agenda; still the public comment defending Coach Malcolm against the allegations went on for an hour and a half. Two overflow rooms were opened to accommodate all the people who say that's not Coach Malcolm.
"More than any other person in my educational journey, Malcolm has taught me the lessons that I need to be the best version of myself," Beau Walker said. Walker played for Coach Malcolm at Wooster and currently coaches baseball at Galena High School.
Several parents said they chose to have their children attend Wooster specifically for Coach Malcolm.
"The character and the life lessons that Ron Malcolm has passed on to these youth, it goes far past the ball field and the diamond," former Wooster parent Andy Black said.
Current and former students also came to his defense, arguing he cares for all of his students.
"He put his blood, sweat, and tears into the field and into his players," Tyler Better said. "He won't give up on you when you feel like giving up, so he's just there for you no mater what."
Better says his biological father left when he was two and Malcolm filled the void.
"He took me under his wing when no one else would," he said.
According to Better, while a student at Wooster, he never heard Malcolm make a racist comment or even rumors that he had said anything inappropriate.
But Malcolm does have a reputation of being a rough and tough coach.
"That's him in a nutshell, 100%," Black said. "I always say, Hey there's no filter with Coach Malcolm, but he's real."
Even with that reputation, his supporters say his heart is in the right place.
"He wants to help people not hurt people," Black said. "If anyone is offended he's the first one to step up and say, 'Hey please forgive me'".
But the parents of the 15-year-old athlete at the center of the incident disagree.
"He's done and said other things that were inappropriate," Sharise Chatfield, the student's mother, said during a December 2017 meeting. "My daughter Hannah is a hero for standing up against her coach, but yet has asked to see a therapist and faces backlash from the baseball team. They were told she was the one who brought their coach down."
The Chatfields say their daughter has faced other racist comments and bullying while at Wooster, not just from Coach Malcolm. The say being mixed race, she has been told "she's too white to be black, and too black to be white."
"There's a bigger issue here than one teacher/coach bullying my daughter," Sharise said. "This is systematic racism, or at least racial bullying that the Washoe County School District refuses to acknowledge."
The school district is not commenting on the incident "because this is an ongoing confidential personnel matter." A statement released by the district confirms while Malcolm has been relieved of his coaching duties, he remains employed at Wooster High School as a health teacher.
The district would not comment on the status of the investigation into the alleged comments, but because it is a personnel matter, the Board of Trustees will have no say in Malcolm's employment. The decision lies with the district, and ultimately Superintendent Traci Davis, who was present at Tuesday's meeting.