The boy's basketball team at Murrah High School in Jackson, Miss. has sued its head basketball coach for what they say is whipping them for running plays wrong. The coach doesn't deny the allegations, although he calls it "paddling," but says he was doing it for the players' own good.
"I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis," first-year head coach Marlon Dorsey said in a statement. "I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students."
In a letter addressed to parents, ESPN reports, Dorsey said the punishment was used for a variety of reasons, including disrespecting teachers, stealing cell phones, leaving campus without permission, being late for class and not following the dress code.
The boys, however, say that the beatings were sports performance-related. In their lawsuit, ESPN says, the players say they were physically and verbally abused by Dorsey after running plays incorrectly, and were hit by a weight belt that weighed anywhere from five to 10 pounds.
"It was very forceful," Jason Hubbard Sr., a father, told the The Clarion-Ledger. He said he witnessed his son get hit: "It wasn't like a spanking, it was a whipping. There's a difference."
According to ESPN, corporal punishment has been banned in Jackson Public Schools since 1991, though it is allowed in other parts of the state.
Not all parents are upset with Dorsey, however, and some are coming to his defense. "He has made them go to study hall, makes them turn in their homework and makes them give weekly reports of their school work," Gary Love, whose son plays for Dorsey, told the Ledger. "It's been all positive with one bad incident. He made a huge mistake, but he is human."
Dorsey has been suspended with pay.