A volunteer Georgia high school football coach was arrested in Atlanta and charged with battery after he was seen on video allegedly punching a young student-athlete in the gut during a game against a rival high school.
The alleged battery against the student occurred during a game last Saturday between Benjamin Mays High School and Douglas County High School. The volunteer coach was identified by the Fulton County Police Department as Carl L. Sledge, a 48-year-old Atlanta resident.
A spokesperson for Atlanta Public Schools, Seth Coleman, issued a statement about the incident this weekend, saying the coach would be charged with simple battery, disciplined administratively and removed from his post as a lay coach for Benjamin Mays High School. He did not hold a position as a classroom instructor of any kind, Coleman said.
An arrest report provided to Law&Crime by police confirms Sledge is a professional truck driver and was charged with simple battery. His bond was set at $5,000. Sledge did not immediately return a request seeking comment and it is unclear if he has retained counsel at this time.
In footage first obtained by Atlanta First News through one of their affiliates, Peachtree TV, the coach, identified by police as Sledge, is seen moving aggressively toward a player still donning his helmet. While screaming at the teenage athlete, Sledge abruptly brings both of his fists down in a jerking motion before appearing to sock the boy hard in the stomach with his right hand. As Sledge walks away, he can still be seen yelling as the student doubles over briefly before steadying himself and resting his hands on his hips as if to catch his breath.
The incident occurred during the first quarter of the game and the coach was removed quickly after the punch.
Atlanta News First reported on Sunday that at least one mother whose son plays on the team for Benjamin Mays has voiced concerns before about the mistreatment of student-athletes.
Parthena Stokes said coaches at the high school “work the kids to death” and that when players try to speak out about the verbal and physical abuse they face, retaliation follows.
Stokes said after what she saw this weekend, her “mouth fell open” and she became angry, though she found it unsurprising. Stokes said she wants to see background checks for every coach, regardless of volunteer or regular status. According to Stokes, the school has rotated coaches so often, it’s hard to keep track of who is on the field.
A number of brawls broke out just two weeks ago during a Benjamin Mays High School football game, prompting area parents to request increased police presence at the functions. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were both shot after fighting erupted just outside the stadium following a game.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]