The Commercial Appeal , December 10, 1998

Father contends wrestler paddled--Legal action 'pending'
By Kevin Gorman

The father of a Bolton High School wrestler has filed a report with the Shelby County Sheriff's Department saying Bolton wrestling coach Billy Gipson paddled his son at a practice last Thursday.

According to the report, Cleveland Crosslin said his son, Steven Crosslin, was hit once on the rear end with a wooden paddle for sitting down - rather than standing up or kneeling - during practice.

"Right now there's some legal action pending. I'd like not to make any comment," Cleveland Crosslin said when reached at his home by telephone Wednesday afternoon. "No lawsuit has been filed. I'm not saying one won't be, but none at this time."

Gipson did not return several phone messages on Wednesday. The second-year coach has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of a Shelby County Board of Education investigation.

Inspector Joe Ball of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department said his office is investigating the complaint, and is taking statements from witnesses and the alleged victim.

If detectives believe there is probable cause to charge Gipson, a request for indictment will be given to the District Attorney General. The case then would be presented to the grand jury, which can indict.

Bolton principal Snowden Carruthers said that assistant coach Robert Lyles was put in charge of the team during the Black Horse Invitational at Houston High last Friday and will remain so until the investigation is completed.

The Commercial Appeal has no records of Steven Crosslin, a junior, competing in any varsity matches this season.

Carruthers said that Cleveland Crosslin has transferred his son to another Shelby County high school. Shelby County BOE spokesman and athletic director Jimmy Hayslip said that a transfer has been requested but not finalized.

Carruthers and Hayslip said that Gipson has had no prior incidents on his record.

"The man's record has been good," Hayslip said. "We haven't had a problem like this (with Gipson) at any time in the past. But he has the responsibility as wrestling coach and, in my opinion, it was a poor judgment.

"It is a matter of grave concern. We want to make sure fairness or firmness is the end result."

Corporal punishment is legal in Tennessee, but Hayslip said Board of Education rules stipulate that paddling must be carried out by the principal or a designee of the principal with the principal present.

Carruthers said he was not present during the paddling.

"It is allowed, but it's the last form of discipline," Hayslip said. "Corporal punishment is a gray area. You just have parents right now (saying), `You better not touch my kid.'

"The bottom line is this is supposed to be done in front of the principal or assistant principal. There was a mistake made that it was not done in the presence of a principal. We're talking about a mess right now."

To reach reporter Kevin Gorman, call 529-2365; E-mail:

Staff reporter Chris Conley contributed to this story.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents