- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita high school assistant basketball coach has been suspended amid allegations from parents that he bullied their children.

Lance Deckinger, athletic director of Northwest High School, told The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/MEI4c7 ) that Carl Caldwell had been suspended while the school investigates. Deckinger said the investigation involves concerns that are confidential because they involve a personnel issue.

But parents of Northwest basketball players told the Eagle that their sons had experienced intimidation and threats by Caldwell. Parents said they met with administrators and Northwest coach Chris Collins, but nothing changed.

Collins, who has not been accused of bullying, said he has never seen Caldwell bullying any players.

“I have not ever seen one of my coaches ever bully a player, ever speak to them in a way that I felt was not correct in terms of instruction or anything of that nature,” Collins said. “I have not ever seen that in front of me.”

He said the accusations concerning Caldwell felt “like a mob mentality (more) than actual facts.”

“I’m saying this based on what I’ve seen,” he added. “I haven’t seen any of my coaches or anyone associated with my program do anything in terms of what they’re being accused of.”

Caldwell, who also works on the grounds crew at Northwest, did not return messages Thursday from the Eagle. A phone listing under his name in Wichita also rang unanswered Friday.

Eric Keith said he wouldn’t allow his son to return to the team in December because Caldwell “was demeaning” him in front of the team.

“They were in the team room together at lunch, and Caldwell walked up to my son and said, ‘What are you looking at?’ My son said nothing. Caldwell basically told him, ‘Say something smart so I can punch you.’

He said his son came home that night, started crying and said he didn’t think he could go back to the team.

Denise Shuck, whose son played for Northwest, said she didn’t speak to the administration until after he graduated in 2012 because he feared retaliation.

“The kids are scared, and they’re scared to say anything, which made me speak up,” Shuck said.

David Miller, whose son transferred this week, said: “If it was just basketball and my kid wasn’t playing as much as I’d like him to play, I’d have never left. It’s so much more than that. It’s bullying. It’s beyond that.”

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