The parents of a Pine-Richland varsity soccer player have filed a complaint with the WPIAL, contending that Pine-Richland's girls varsity soccer program and coach Jodi Chmielewski have violated the athletic league's regulations.
Jack and Cindy Reynolds state in a letter of complaint that WPIAL Rules and Regulations on coaching, health and using school resources for personal gain have been violated by the coach.
Jack Reynolds said he filed the complaint Friday.
The Reynolds also detail in the letter of complaint a history of what they say happened to their daughter, Allyn, who received a concussion in an August 2011 soccer scrimmage. A video of that game is included with the letter.
The Reynolds said Allyn's head was injured when she collided with an opposing player as both jumped up for the ball. After sitting out for about 15 minutes, she returned to the game and hit her head again after colliding with another girl and falling to the ground.
The Reynolds said that Chmielewski should not have put their daughter back in the game.
"Please assure a fair, complete investigation of this matter," the Reynolds state in the letter.
Attorney David B. White, who represents Chmielewski, said he could not comment on the complaint because he has not seen it.
Chmielewski is entering her 15th season as the head coach of the PRHS girls' varsity soccer team, according to her bio on the Pine-Richland girls soccer website. During her tenure, the team has captured five section titles and six trips to the state playoffs.
White said he wanted to emphasize that Allyn did not go back into the scrimmage game in which she was injured until after a trainer—not the coach—cleared her to do so. In an email response, he also said Allyn's parents are upset with the coach over the amount of time their daughter played in games.
Two investigations—one by the school district and another by an independent investigator hired by the district—have concluded the Reynolds' allegations about his client are baseless, White said.
The school board never discussed the investigations publicly, so the nature of the investigation is not clear. Pine-Richland Patch filed a Right-to-Know Request for the reports from those investigations on Friday afternoon.
Chmielewski's attorney said in an email that the school district "hired an independent investigator to investigate the charges being asserted by the Reynolds and that this investigation unequivocally concluded that the allegations were baseless and that Ms. Chmielewski did not insist or put the Reynolds’ daughter back into a game with lingering effects from a concussion.
"The decision to clear a player to resume playing is, and in this case was, made by the training staff and NOT Ms. Chmielewski. This is exactly what the Pine-Richland administration concluded after their own internal investigation and the conclusion reached by the independent investigator hired by the school district," White wrote.
Jack Reynolds said he does not have the reports from those investigations and has filed a Right-to-Know request to obtain them.
When the Pine-Richland School Board met to vote Aug. 13 on hiring coaches for the school year—an annual rite which usually is handled without comment—supporters and opponents of Chmielewski filled the school board's meeting room to voice their concerns to the school board directors.
After hearing parents and players speak in support of Chmielewski, Cindy Reynolds addressed the board.
"It's not about how much you win or play," she said. "It's about the safety of the girls."
The only school board member to comment was Laura Ohlund, who voted against retaining Chmielewski.
Ohlund said she respected what the speakers told the board, but she knew a lot about the situation and "could not sleep with her conscience" if she voted yes.
The Pine-Richland board voted without discussion or comment on the motion to hire the coach. It typically handles personnel matters that way.
Asked after the meeting about the investigations, PRSD Communications Director Rachel Hathhorn emailed this response: "The safety and well being of our students is a priority here in the Pine-Richland School District. Any concerns brought before the district are reviewed thoroughly and taken seriously. We cannot comment on cases involving personnel."
Chmielewski's attorney and some of the speakers at the school board meeting said the issue stems from playing time.
"When you peel back the falsehoods and baseless allegations being lodged by the Reynolds, (or any of the other families who may have jumped on their bandwagon) it all comes down to the parents’ dissatisfaction with their daughter’s playing time," White wrote in an email to Pine-Richland Patch.
"This seems to be a much-too-frequent avenue that parents take when their child thinks she or he is not playing as much as he or she thinks they should, or, in most cases, how much the parents think they should be playing."
The Reynolds, along with other parents of soccer players, have said their concerns are directed at the way Chmielewski treats players.
Parents Cite WPIAL Rules
In their letter to the WPIAL, the Reynolds cite PIAA rules as they allege that Chmielewski plays favorites with players; badgers and bullies select players to get them to quit the team; and disregards players' health to focus on winning.
The letter also sites a provision in the PIAA rules about using a school's resources for personal gain.
"The coach left her classroom to work on personal matters routinely, used school email for personal business, took personal days off to coach her club team, and used district facilities for indoor training of her club team," the letter states.
The coach's attorney said that after he reviews the complaint, he will be glad to respond.
Player's Injury Detailed
Allyn Reynolds was a freshman when she sustained a serious concussive injury in a scrimmage against Norwin on Aug 30, 2011, that caused her to miss more than five months of school, the Reynolds' letter states.
"Allyn was not immediately removed from play until the team captain twice approached the head coach insisting something was wrong with her," according to the Reynolds' letter.
When Allyn later returned to the game, she was knocked down from behind and slammed her head on the ground, the Reynolds write.
"After the game, neither the coach nor trainer gave us any indication that Allyn was injured and should be watched for concussion symptoms," the letter states.
A video of the game shows Allyn and a Norwin player jump up for the ball at the same time and collide. The Norwin player falls to the ground and does not get up; medical personnel ran out to tend to her.
Allyn is shown on the video walking away from the play.
"I was really confused," Allyn said in an interview. She said she felt disoriented and was moving slowly.
Allyn said her teammates on the bench told her that her eyes "looked funny ... unfocused." Allyn said she later had to go through therapy because her eyes would not focus correctly.
After sitting on the bench for about 15 minutes, Allyn said she spoke to a trainer who told her she could go back into the game.
She went back into the game and the video shows Allyn getting to the ball just before a Norwin player. Because of the angle of the camera, the viewer sees the back of the Norwin player, then Allyn falling to the ground in front of her.
Allyn said she does not remember being hit the second time.
"I didn't know what was going on," she said. By the end of the game, she said she did not remember the score.
Over time, her symptoms worsened, she said, and she finally went to a doctor.
Allyn said she tried going to school for half-days, but contending with lights, hallways, people and homework became too much for her.
Following her doctor's advice, she stayed out of school for five months and had problems with lights, sound and sleep.
Allyn went back to school for half-days at the end of March and was cleared by her doctor to play soccer at the end of April.
Two weeks later, she sustained another concussion while playing for a club team not affiliated with the school district, she said.
"Knowing what I knew, I stopped play within a week," she said, and went back to seeing her doctor and modifying her school day.
Allyn said she had severe headaches, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.
As school is about to start for the 2012-13 year, she said she is worried because her schedule includes challenging honors and AP courses.
The Reynolds said they met with Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci and Tony DiTommaso, director of administrative and legal affairs, on Feb. 3 and requested an investigation, which began in late May 2012.
"The first week of June we were informed that the district had hired a law firm to conduct a formal investigation," the Reynolds state in the letter.
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