Update: The issue with North Tonawanda’s boys soccer team has been resolved. Dave Ricci has been in constant communication with all parties involved. You can read his follow-up article to this story here:
Just an hour before kickoff of an NFL Boys soccer game between North Tonawanda and Grand Island a parent of one of the players decided to camp out in the middle of the playing field. Jeannette Toth had enough. She decided to protest the alleged hazing that has been going on at NT involving one of her sons. Her frustration stems back to the spring baseball season where concerns of bullying and harassment ran amok on the JV team and nothing was done. Allegations of abuse continued this Fall with the soccer program. NT Athletic Director Jeff Alger has opened an investigation into the matter.
According to Toth and her husband, certain players are bullying teammates, one of those being bullied is their son. They allege that one of their son’s soccer ball was destroyed by teammates and another ball was taken to a port-o-potty and thrown into a toilet, full of human waste. Those being the most disturbing examples.
Toth and members of the team’s booster club went to the Athletic director and the Coach about the bullying on the team and believed that the issue had been taken care of.
On Thursday, well before the game was to begin, Steve Toth, the boy’s father spoke to the coach about how the situation was being handled. He was told that there was not enough evidence to prove one of the players on the team was responsible and they all needed to move on. That’s when the Toths decided to take a stand.
“This has been going on since last year. They turned a blind eye then, I won’t let that happen again. Somebody needs to put a stop to this” Mr. Toth said.
The school board president came out on the field to talk to Mrs. Toth. The President talked with the coach and the team before the game about the issue. One of the players in question was benched for the game. Despite the action taken Mrs. Toth and her husband were not satisfied, and believe more needs to be done.
After the game, Athletic Director Jeff Alger addressed the team as soon as the horn sounded. He told the team that if no one fessed up about what happened with the soccer ball and the hazing going on by 3pm Friday that the team would forfeit the next game and beyond until all those responsible came forward.
Superintendent Greg Woytila did not arrive at the field. Alger departed the field as soon as he finished addressing the team. Head Coach Joe Wilkie was unable to comment.
Statement from Mrs. Toth regarding last night’s game:
During the “fall sports kick-off meeting”, the athletic director emphasized that if an athlete had an issue on a team, they were to go to their coach as the first line of defense. And we did. The coach was very reasonable in the beginning, and thanked us for following “protocol”. We gave him time to contact the A.D, and work on it. Prior to Thursday night’s game, the A.D. held a meeting with the team. When we asked the coach the result of that meeting, he said “It’s over. No one will admit they did it, it’s done.” I could not let the bullying of our son, or any other child, continue. An example needed to be set. I sat centerfield to make a statement that bullying is not acceptable…ever. Coach never approached me on the field to address the situation. He mentioned to others that “I was going to ruin his program,’ if I stayed on the field and made them forfeit/delay the game.
I have a very dear friend who is the NT School Board President. She heard/saw what was happening, called both the Superintendent and the AD, both of whom were attending to NTHS open house last night, and were supposed to speak to my husband and I after the game. Neither did at the field, although the AD did call late last night. School Board President rationalized with the coach, and had the “suspected” bully sit the bench for the game. That is why I moved off the field. We are not looking to punish the whole team. We are not trying to ostracize the accused bully. But attention needed to be brought to the team that bullying in any way shape or form is not acceptable. You are teammates. You have a common goal. Figure it out.
It should be noted that NT lost to Grand Island 10-0. During the course of the game, three players never touched the field – the player accused of bullying, Toth’s son and another player.
Frank Wolf also contributed to this report. We will continue to follow this story and report on any further developments.