Bowling Green (Ky.) High School girls basketball coach LaVonda Johnson was fired Thursday for not treating “student players with dignity and respect” and for several other incidents during her 10-season tenure according to a termination memorandum obtained by The Courier-Journal.
The Bowling Green Daily News first reported the contents of the memorandum Friday evening.
Johnson wrote in a statement that she plans to take legal action after she said she was told by Bowling Green principal William King that he “wanted more white coaches and white players” on the team during a meeting following the firing of two assistant coaches after the 2015-16 season.
King denied making that statement, calling it “a bold-faced lie.”
Johnson, who is African-American, posted a 254-56 record and led the Purples to a quartet of Fourth Region championships. Her 2010-11 squad finished 25-2 and posted the program’s first-ever victory in the state tournament.
But the termination memo from Gary Fields – superintendent of the Bowling Green Independent School District – indicates the coach was fired after several reprimands over the past two years.
-A private reprimand on Oct. 15, 2015, “regarding your use of profanity directed toward a student basketball player.”
-A memo from King on March 1, 2016, “listing several performance expectations in your role as coach because he felt you needed to improve in several areas. Because he determined that you had not met many of the listed expectations, he gave you a second memorandum continuing performance expectations for the 2017 season. These documents reflect that Mr. King has lost confidence in you as the head basketball coach.”
-“On June 6, 2017, you upset another student basketball player when you commented to the student during a game as to her acting crazy when she did not take her medication. While you assured the student’s mother and High School Principal William King that no one heard your comment to the student about her being on medication, the investigation of the parent’s complaint about the situation revealed that at least one other coach and two students heard your statement.”
In the termination memorandum, Fields also wrote that he did not have confidence “that you will have enough players to field competitive teams for the 2017-2018 season.” Fields wrote that Johnson acknowledged Monday that she “had an average of 10 to 12 students, including junior high students, attending practices in June and only five to six students attending in July.
“You indicated during our meeting that you were confident you would have a total of approximately 20-25 students by the time the season starts; however, I am not confident you will have that many players or have enough players to adequately field three separate teams (freshman, junior varsity and varsity). I believe we need new leadership to build the program and generate greater interest.”
Fields wrote that Johnson will receive her coaching stipend for the 2017-18 school year “because I am making this decision after the deadline for notice of a reduction in salary.” Fields also wrote the decision does not impact Johnson’s position as a teacher at Bowling Green High School.
Johnson would not comment on the termination memorandum when contacted Friday night.
In a statement released Thursday, Johnson wrote that she has filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association regarding the comments she said King made after the firing of her assistant coaches.
“The district has steadfastly refused to talk to us,” Johnson wrote. “Given the district’s position, we appear to be left with no alternative but to pursue our rights in court.”
Fields said he was not involved with the meeting Johnson described but stands behind King.
“Mr. King does an outstanding job for all students at Bowling Green High School and all student-athletes,” Fields said. “Every decision he makes, he puts them first. He has 100 percent of my support as the leader at Bowling Green High School.”
Johnson, a former All-State guard at Warren East High School who went on to play at Western Kentucky University, coached two seasons at Glasgow (2005-07) before taking the job at Bowling Green.