TEMECULA: TVUSD faces football team injury lawsuit

The Temecula Valley Unified School Board is investigating parent claims that 25 Chaparral High School football players, during a September conditioning practice, may have suffered burns on their hands from hot artificial grass.

The football players after complaining of the burns were sent to the team athletic trainer John Rentar who provided first aid treatment for their burns. A few days later the school nurse, after examining a few of the player’s blistered hands, called parents to inform them that they needed further medical treatment for possible infections.

Since the September 2 training practice the parents of the players have complained to the school board about the incident and are threatening a lawsuit.

One of the football player’s mothers, who chose to remain anonymous for fear her child would be retaliated against, claims that during a school football practice, 25 or more players on the football team were chastised by Coach Jeremy McCullough for “losing their focus and goofing off” on the field. In an effort to condition the teens, the parent said, the coach ordered the players to perform “bear crawls” on the hot artificial turf field, resulting in burns on the students’ hands and knees.

The mother said the school failed to immediately notify the students’ parents, of their injuries.

“They’re trying to push it under the rug and act like nothing happened…I had to extrapolate it out of them,” she said.

The mother of the 14-year-old player said she wasn’t aware of the situation or her son’s wounds until a few days later, when the school called and promptly informed her that her son was in need of hospitalization.

After the parents began complaining the School Board issued a statement to the parents.

In the statement, the school claims that the students were required to perform “crab walks”, but that the injuries were unintended and the coach in question did, in fact, sterilize the equipment used to “pop” the students’ blisters.

“On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, during fourth period PE class, members of the Chaparral High School freshman football team were performing conditioning activities on the new artificial turf field including bear crawls and crab walks. The activities required student-athletes to repetitively move their hands across the turf field. During the course of this activity, several student-athletes developed blisters on their hands. Student safety has been and continues to be one of the District’s highest priorities,” the statement reported. “While the District continues to thoroughly investigate this incident consistent with its practices, the unintended consequences resulted in students being hurt. Such injuries are never acceptable and we are committed to implementing any and all necessary corrective actions at the completion of our investigation…

“We have confirmed that the trainer used a fully sterilized protocol for each student including hand washing, betadine and scissors swabbed with alcohol before each application. The trainer also applied a protective ointment and band aids. The school’s team doctor reviewed the trainer’s first aid response and agreed that the treatment was within appropriate guidelines…One of the valuable lessons we have learned from this incident is that we have a need to revisit guidelines for the use of artificial turf fields with athletic staff and student-athletes. The District will make this training a priority district-wide. The District and Chaparral High School remain committed to ensuring students receive the best possible care while in the supervision of our qualified staff members.”

“Alcohol doesn’t kill MRSA, alcohol doesn’t kill Hepatitis, alcohol doesn’t kill HIV” the mother of the 14-year-old player said. Other parents say they fear the treatment may have infected every player and are asking the school to pay for the testing and any treatment needed.

Chaparral parents reported to the school board they are angered that the initial first aid treatment was done without their knowledge.

Since the incident, parents have been requesting meetings with the school principals, reportedly hired lawyers, and are lobbying for the resignations of Coach McCullough and Rentar. Greatly concerned that their children would be retaliated against, none of the parents would allow their names to be used by this writer.

The school released a written statement to address parents’ concerns. In the statement, the school claims that the students were required to perform “crab walks”, but that the injuries were unintended and the coach in question did, in fact, sterilize the equipment used to “pop” the students’ blisters.

“On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, during fourth period PE class, members of the Chaparral High School freshman football team were performing conditioning activities on the new artificial turf field including bear crawls and crab walks. The activities required student-athletes to repetitively move their hands across the turf field. During the course of this activity, several student-athletes developed blisters on their hands. Student safety has been and continues to be one of the District’s highest priorities,” the statement reported. “While the District continues to thoroughly investigate this incident consistent with its practices, the unintended consequences resulted in students being hurt. Such injuries are never acceptable and we are committed to implementing any and all necessary corrective actions at the completion of our investigation…

“We have confirmed that the trainer used a fully sterilized protocol for each student including hand washing, betadine and scissors swabbed with alcohol before each application. The trainer also applied a protective ointment and band-aids. The school’s team doctor reviewed the trainer’s first aid response and agreed that the treatment was within appropriate guidelines…One of the valuable lessons we have learned from this incident is that we have a need to revisit guidelines for the use of artificial turf fields with athletic staff and student-athletes. The District will make this training a priority district-wide. The District and Chaparral High School remain committed to ensuring students receive the best possible care while in the supervision of our qualified staff members.”

The parents plan to continue pursuing legal action against the school.

Editor’s note: While it is not Valley News policy to run a story without using the names of our sources, we decided to run this story without identifying those involved for several reasons. First and foremost there are minors involved, secondly, using names could be a violation of HIPPA laws. Finally, we believe that the statement issued by TVUSD confirms the claims being made against Chaparral High School.

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