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J-M’s Assion under scrutiny by ODE

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

NORTH JACKSON

Jackson-Milton’s former football coach is facing an investigation with the Ohio Department of Education for unprofessional conduct, The Vindicator has learned.

A complaint to the Jackson-Milton Board of Education and the state education department about alleged coarse language during an offseason team meeting set the wheels in motion for Mark Assion’s resignation on July 25.

He was the only football coach to take the team to the playoffs in school history.

The Vindicator obtained the school’s personnel file on Assion through an Ohio Sunshine Law open-record’s request.

The file contained allegations Assion had used inappropriate language as recently as this summer and as far back as 2012. Names of certain parties listed in the file were redacted by the district for privacy reasons.

Assion said his attorney advised him not to comment to the newspaper.

“He’s a good guy and does a lot for this school and community,” said schools Superintendent Kirk Baker. “It’s hard for us, but we have professional standards to uphold, and I have to step in and do my duties as superintendent.”

Baker said a parent made a complaint to the board June 29. In an interview with an unidentified student, the district pieced together the alleged incident.

The student said he was in the locker room with other football players when Assion walked in and said a player “rapes puppies” and that another “rapes kittens.” That was the opening to a discussion of preventing bullying, hazing and sexual assault.

An individual who wasn’t named in the file texted Assion to ask if he said a player rapes puppies. In his two-text reply, Assion did not confirm or deny he said it.

“Wow. I play around a lot with language to get the boys’ attention on serious matters. I would hope that I did not say that at all,” Assion wrote. “However, if I did it, it was meant in a way where no one would have taken it seriously.”

Assion followed up by writing he did not find rape “comical or funny.”

On July 11, Baker sent a letter to Assion stating he was being assigned away from his coaching responsibilities until further notice.

The 11-year coach had previously been warned about foul language. Last September, Baker wrote Assion to tell him he found the comments he made on a Saturday morning talk show about two student-athletes “upsetting.” Baker did not write what the comments were, but said if there were more inappropriate comments, he would be removed from his coaching duties.

In 2015, Baker previously advised Assion to talk with his players and staff about language.

A 2012 letter from one unidentified party to another describe a meeting about an allegation from a parent of Assion using disparaging terms for girls in front of her daughter.

Assion admitted to using one such term, but added it was not directed at a particular student. He denied using the rest of the listed terms.

The interview with the student offered allegations Assion used inappropriate terms to describe a student working the chain gang at a football game and some were directed at his own players. The student said he “swears like most coaches.”

Baker said its unclear what exactly the state education department will do with Assion, and that the process can take anywhere from six weeks to 16 months.

Assion remains employed with Jackson-Milton as a math teacher. Baker said he’s OK with that arrangement because, as he understands it, Assion the coach is under investigation, not Assion the teacher.

Brittany Halpin, an ODE spokeswoman, wouldn’t confirm or deny there is an investigation into Assion.

In general terms, she said her department examines whether someone is fit to have a coaching or teaching license.

Whether the individual under investigation can still work within the district is up to local officials, Halpin said.



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