Seven Westover basketball players disciplined in camp bullying incident

One player removed from team, others face game suspensions, in-school suspensions and community service

William Chunn

William Chunn

ALBANY — Westover High School Principal William Chunn took disciplinary action against seven members of the school’s boys basketball team Friday, including kicking one player off of the team, as the result of a bullying incident of a teammate two weekends ago while the students were attending a camp in Tallahassee, Fla.

The abuse allegations were made public by the 16-year-old player’s father, Manswell Peterson, and sparked an internal investigation led by Dougherty County School System Police Department Chief Investigator J.C. Phillips. His final report, given to DCSS Administrative Assistant Jack Willis late Tuesday, stated, “The investigation revealed that the student was indeed physically and verbally abused and bullied.”

The victim transferred to Sherwood Christian Academy last week.

“On Friday morning, I reviewed the bus video at the DCSS Police Department and on Friday afternoon, I met with (players’) parents to discuss the police report, the bus video and the discipline their children would receive,” Chunn said. “I do not have the liberty to publicly discuss individual student discipline by name, but I can say students received discipline in accordance to the code of conduct by discipline levels, which included tribunal hearings, home suspensions and in-school suspensions.

“Because this was an extracurricular activity, discipline also included removal from the team, basketball game suspensions and required community service under the supervision of a law enforcement officer. The discipline has been approved by the superintendent’s office.”

The Herald has learned that the discipline from Chunn ranges from one player being removed from the team and transferred to the South Georgia Achievement Center for a semester to five-game suspensions and in-school suspensions for the other players involved.

According to Phillips’ report “the level of physical bullying involved the student having his glasses, bed sheets and pillows taken from him. When his pillow was taken from him, he was struck with it several times. On the following day, a third teammate in the hotel room who had witnessed the incident told the rest of the team about it and it instigated further mischievous conduct. While at the FSU Civic Center, there were three other teammates that were identified to be throwing items (Cheetos) at the complaintant while seated in the bleachers.

“This was clearly done with the intent to further taunt and harass the complaintant. While on the bus traveling back to Albany, the bus video clearly indicates the verbal taunting continued from certain team members. Based on the forensic interview and the totality of the investigation, it is clear the student was indeed bullied and possibly emotionally traumatized.

“In reference to the allegations of cyber bullying. there was one student that posted a comment on twitter (sic) referencing the bullying/harassing. The comment that posted was threatening, but did not rise to the level of ‘terroristic threats and acts.’”

The report concluded that based on the results of the investigation, the DCSSPD found no evidence of criminal behavior and suggested that the incident be handled administratively.

Peterson, reached Friday for comment, was satisfied with the outcome.

“I feel they just sent a strong message that bullying will not be tolerated in the Dougherty County School System,” Peterson said. “It could have been more, but their actions today shows they took the situation seriously. They brought the hammer down and definitely sent a message.”

Chunn said he would meet with Willis Monday morning to determine what, if any, action would be taken against the team's coaches.