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McDuffie school board votes to keep Ridings at Thomson

Posted: May 14, 2017 - 12:30am
Thomson coach Rob Ridings, who will keep his job, talked to his team after a game in 2015. He is 25-3 the past two seasons with the Bulldogs.
Thomson coach Rob Ridings, who will keep his job, talked to his team after a game in 2015. He is 25-3 the past two seasons with the Bulldogs.

THOMSON - The McDuffie County Board of Education voted Thursday night to keep Rob Ridings as Thomson's head football coach.

The board voted 5-2 in favor of Ridings with chairman Bea Hart-Moss and member Jarvis McNair opposing. He was assessed a suspension without pay that began April 24 and ended May 5, covering parts of his administrative leave.

Ridings was initially placed on administrative leave with pay April 25 after an incident in which the coach broke protocol by going to Thomson-McDuffie Middle School and confronting a student.

Many different claims were made from multiple sides, from a mother stating Ridings harassed the child to speculation the child bullied Ridings' son.

The board performed an investigation and made its final decision during a regular planned meeting. No details of the investigation were revealed and board members didn't comment after the meeting.

"While the district does not and cannot discuss the specifics of any individual personnel or student action, the district takes all allegations of employee misconduct seriously and believes that this consequence is appropriate given the circumstances which involved no use of profanity or physical contact by the employee," the board stated in a release.

Thirteen people were slated to speak during the meeting's public input session. All but two spoke in favor of Ridings and offered "character witnesses" in support of the coach, who didn't attend the meeting. Attempts to reach Ridings after the meeting were not successful.

"It's not always true what we've been accused of," former Thomson assistant coach John Barnett said. "I'm sure coach regrets going across that road. ... I hope our great community can get past this."

"We should be thankful to have him in our community," said Thomson resident Ralph Starling.

One who spoke against Ridings, Susan Benning-Tutt, used words such as "kidnapping by definition" and "child abuse" to describe her view of the situation.

"He degraded a student by making it a personal matter without notifying the parents," Benning-Tutt said. "He acted as a man with a personal agenda. ... I'm here to support a 14-year-old child."

The meeting room was packed beyond the available chairs with many more awaiting the decision outside. Afterward, many circled together in the parking lot to pray.

Ridings has led Thomson's program the past three seasons and is 25-3 in the past two. He went 14-1 in 2016 and was undefeated until falling to Cartersville in the Class AAAA state championship. He was offensive coordinator under Luther Welsh for Thomson's last state title in 2002.

 

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