The beginning of a Walled Lake Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Nov. 3 turned into a rally for a Walled Lake Western High School assistant football coach who was suspended after an alleged hazing incident recently took place inside his home.
Bill Brenner, who has been a teacher in the school district for 18 years and an assistant coach for 16 years, asked the board for reinstatement “so I can get back to doing what I do best, making a difference in young people’s lives. I don’t think a suspension does anybody any good.”
According to a Wixom Police Department report filed by the alleged victim’s mother, the incident took place in an assistant football coach’s house and involved the player being bound to a pole with duct tape and a helmet being placed on him. No other information on what else may have occurred during the incident was provided.
The incident resulted in the district disciplining five Western football players.
Brenner admitted that the incident took place in his home on Oct. 20, but said that based on what he saw and what he was told, he felt like he acted appropriately in response to the incident.
“If I truly acted improperly, then train me, educate me. Be proactive, rather than reactive,” Brenner said, with his wife, Tracy, at his side. I believe the punishment that I received is unjust. I have tried appealing the decision. However, the appeals process has been bungled at all levels.”
A video recording of the incident allegedly made its way to YouTube, where it was posted for a short time before it was eventually taken down.
Brenner added that he has offered to be a spokesman and advocate on the issues of hazing and bullying. He also said he was recently made aware of a fund-raiser at Walnut Creek Middle School involving the school’s principal being duct-taped to a pole, and claimed that mixed messages were being sent.
Other meeting attendees spoke out in support of Brenner, citing his commitment to the community through teaching, coaching and church involvement, as well as his strong relationships with parents and present and former students, especially those serving in the military.
Western senior football captain Michael Condon pledged his support not only for Brenner, but also for assistant coach Bob Chiesa, who Condon said was also suspended following the incident.
Carl Westphal, a parent with a son at Western, went so far as to say that the administration had a knee-jerk reaction to the incident and had “taken an unfortunate situation and turned it into a terrible situation.”
Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said that the discipline was based on the information gathered from an investigation by Western administration.
He added that the students have served the disciplinary consequence and that a staff appeal has yet to be completed.
Gutman also apologized to the victim and families impacted by the incident.
Walled Lake School Board President Kathy Lyall said that the board supported the actions and discipline doled out by Western administrators.