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Coach Suspended for Paddling Student

February 5, 2001

DETROIT (AP) _ A high school football coach accused of hitting a 15-year-old player with a wooden paddle because the player received poor grades was suspended Monday.

Freshman Omi Judkins said Joel Blankenship, a coach and history teacher at Detroit Murray-Wright, hit him and other players. Police and school officials are investigating the claims.

Officials at Murray-Wright did not return calls Monday and Blankenship could not be reached at home.

``The policy is not to discuss personnel matters. This one is particularly sensitive, especially in light of the possible litigation involved,″ Detroit Public Schools spokesman Stan Childress said. He said that Blankenship has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Blankenship played football at Murray-Wright before receiving a football scholarship to Michigan in 1989. He told The Detroit News that his high school coach also paddled players.

``I told (family members) I’ve apologized for this from day one, but they think it’s best if I don’t say anything now,″ he told the paper. ″... You have no idea how painful this is to me.″

Blankenship became head football coach at Murray-Wright seven years ago.

Judkins, a 6-foot-3, 308-pound center who started every game for the junior varsity squad, said he and other players were told to bring their report cards to Blankenship’s office after school on Jan. 22. They usually had weight training for two hours after school every day.

Blankenship separated the report cards into ``good″ and ``bad″ piles, Judkins said. Players were told they would get three smacks for each D they received and five for each F. A school security guard was in the room while Blankenship doled out the whacks with a thick, wooden, 26-inch-long paddle, Judkins said.

``It was coming with a lot of force,″ Judkins said Monday. ``He was lecturing us, telling us getting good grades would affect us in life.″

Judkins said it was known among teammates that Blankenship and other coaches used the paddle to try to teach players lessons and that he previously had received two hits for getting into an argument with another student.

Detroit Police Sgt. Gawaine Hughes of the department’s child abuse section said Judkin’s mother, LaTanya Pruett, filed a report on Jan. 24 but no interviews have been conducted.

If there is sufficient proof of wrongdoing, the police could issue a warrant on child abuse charges, Hughes said.

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