Oklahoma: Kingfisher Taxpayers to Cover Most of $5 Million Hazing Lawsuit Settlement
Court documents said Kingfisher Public Schools football players participated in alleged coach-sanctioned fights.
KINGFISHER, Okla. — An Oklahoma school board has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a hazing lawsuit with the family of a former high school football player, and the large majority will be paid for with taxpayers’ money.
The Kingfisher Public Schools board voted Dec. 4 to approve the settlement in the federal case that alleged an ongoing culture of hazing, bullying, and physical and sexual assault within its football program, KFOR reports. Court documents said players participated in alleged coach-sanctioned fights between players called “The Ring.”
Video footage, which was taken in the locker room in 2018 and presented as evidence in court, shows two football players punching each other while the others cheer them on. Players would also whip each other with wet towels and shoot each other with paintball guns at close range, according to the lawsuit. A photo presented in court shows severe bruising on the plaintiff’s back which was allegedly caused by other players whipping him with a wet towel.
In March 2022, the plaintiff’s attorneys asked to settle the case for $1.5 million but the board rejected it. The attorneys have also continuously asked the district to fire head football coach Jeff Meyers, who was charged with a felony count of child neglect last month. He is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of the felony charge.
Under the new settlement, Meyers can no longer coach any athletic program within the district. The district will also pay $1.25 million from the general fund within 90 days. The remaining $3.75 million will come from tax rolls over the next three years. Kingfisher County District 1 Commissioner Heath Dobrovolny told KFOR that for every $1,000 worth of property value, property owners will pay an additional $120 — a 12% increase.
“That looks like about a $10 million increase for the people who live in the Kingfisher School district, not the entire county,” he said. “When you couple the $3.75M with the 5.5% interest for the three years that it takes to pay it off, that’s where we get the 12% increase. We don’t know what the interest really is going to be, but we feel like it’s a pretty safe number just as a ballpark.”
During the Dec. 4 meeting, board member Brad Wittrock said the district had liability insurance under the Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust, a self-insurance pool, but that it was dissolved in July 2021 due to financial difficulties. He said the lawsuit was filed when the district was transitioning to a new insurance company and didn’t have coverage. Community members said they should not be held liable for the district’s mistakes and that it should all come from the general fund. Others said it sets a precedent for future lawsuits.
Kingfisher Public Schools Superintendent David Glover said the board’s decision was in the best interest of students and the overall cost to the district.
“Our school district has dropped the ball on a lot of things. There’s no disputing that. As the Superintendent, I really got tired of us paying attorney fees and taking things away from the kids in our school,” he said. “The school district was really going to be on trial starting [December 5]. The way I looked at it is our kids were going to be on trial because we were gonna have to put a stop on some things. We just didn’t see an end. On the advice of our counsel, we knew we were probably going to lose the judgment and we kind of accepted we were going to lose this judgment.”
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