Associated Press, May 17, 1998

Strip-searching coach apoligizes, sets own punishment, hailed 'good man'

HOLLIS (AP) -- A Hollis coach was suspended for six weeks without pay Friday after strip-searching some students earlier this week while looking for missing money.

Hollis school board members late Friday accepted coach David Fulton's offer that he be suspended for six weeks without pay, be docked $5,000 in salary and that he apologize to each of the 30 or so students involved in the search and to the students' parents.

About 400 people attending the meeting cheered loudly as speaker after speaker offered support to Fulton, who has coached football, track and taught for 24 years.

Most agreed that what he did was wrong, but asked that he not be fired.

"We're all humans. We all make mistakes, and my boy is just as fond of coach Fulton as he was before this happened," said Bob Hollis, whose son was among those searched.

The students said two principals and three coaches gave them five minutes alone Monday morning to return $23 allegedly taken from a classmate.

Fulton then returned to the gymnasium locker room and told them to take off their shoes, socks, pants and underwear, some of the boys said.

When a few of the teens tried to pull their shirts down to cover themselves, the coach reportedly told them to pick up their shirts.

Keith Davis, an attorney hired by parents of the boys, withdrew an earlier request that Fulton be fired. Instead, he asked for an apology and that those involved be disciplined.

"He's a good man who contributed greatly to this school," Davis said.

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