Dave Beeler, the longtime head coach for both varsity track and cross country at Elma High School, was suspended from coaching for the Elma School District this spring after he asked for pain killers from a seventh-grader on a team bus in February.
According to a letter the superintendent sent Beller obtained by The Vidette through a public records request, Beeler was on a team bus Feb. 10 following a middle school basketball game at Montesano. It was reported to administration the following day that Beeler “asked a student player if he had any painkillers,” the letter states. “The student had evidently injured himself previously.”
Beeler, who is also a teacher’s aide in the district, maintains that his comment was “a joke” and feels that district officials overreacted to the incident, which was recorded on the video camera on the bus.
“I’ve been the head coach there for almost 20 years,” Beeler said. “I’ve never had a parent complaint. I have nothing else in my file on record in the school. I think it could have been handled differently.”
On Thursday, Feb. 12, Beeler met with Elma High Principal Kevin Acuff and Elma Superintendent Howard King and informed of the allegations. The document states that Beeler acknowledged he made the request, but was joking, as he knew the student.
On Friday, Feb. 13, he was placed on administrative leave.
The letter, dated Feb. 24, states: “Upon viewing the video, it is apparent that the request to the student was made. While the video does not reflect a joking attitude, regardless, even if it had been meant as a joke, the fact that the request was made constitutes a serious lack of judgment which is required when working with students.
“As a result of this incident, you will not be coaching for the Elma School District this spring. Any future considerations of coaching will be based upon your desire to learn from this situation and focus on positive interactions with students in your care.”
“I can’t even take painkillers because I have a heart condition,” said Beeler, who has been coaching varsity sports at Elma High for 22 years, most of that time has been as a head coach.
“I’ve known the kid’s dad for 22 years and we joke all the time,” Beeler said. “I was joking completely, but some people took it out of context. They say I had a straight face when I said it, but I joke all the time with a straight face.
“Am I seriously going to ask for painkillers on a bus full of kids and an assistant coach and my own daughter sitting nearby?” he said. “I still just don’t get it — why it had to be like this.”
Beeler’s 2012 salary was $16,845. He also received $8,740 in bonuses or stipends, most of which came from his district coaching responsibilities, according to a district official. He remains employed as an aide in the district.
He said he would definitely like to return to coaching for Elma, if possible.
“This has been the longest spring of my life,” said the visibly shaken Beeler.