Gaston County Board of Education votes to modify nepotism policy

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Justin Parker watched hopelessly Monday night as members of the Gaston County Board of Education discussed whether they should modify their nepotism policy to include school system volunteers.

Parker, who is a volunteer wrestling coach at W.C. Friday Middle School in Dallas, said he was recently told that he couldn't be a volunteer on the team anymore. The issue is his father is the head coach of the team.

In years past, the school system's nepotism policy has only applied to employees within Gaston County Schools. However, the issue was recently brought before the board of education and some board members were concerned that the policy didn't cover volunteers. The topic was then placed on the most recent board meeting agenda.

"(I'm) just upset thinking about getting to coach with pops," said Parker.

Board members heard an overview of volunteer procedures from staff members with Gaston County Schools, and then discussed whether the nepotism policy should be changed.

Chris Howell, a member of the board, argued that the volunteers should be able to coach with their family members.

"It is my opinion that we should allow volunteers to coach because as we see in the volunteer policy they are in direct supervision of a Gaston County Schools employee," said Howell.

Other board members argued that volunteer coaches needed to be covered by the nepotism policy because of how much time they spend with kids during the year.

"They are the only volunteer that I can think of, and there are probably others and I'm not thinking, that go off campus continuously with children," said board member Dot Cherry.

Kevin Collier, the board chairman, referenced the liabilities the school system could face with two family members serving as the only coaches of a school sports team.

"What we do here is to try to make sure we protect our children and look after the best interests of our children and two family members is not always the best situation," explained Collier.

After a lengthy debate, the board voted 6-2 to direct staff members to craft the nepotism policy to apply to volunteer coaches but not including other volunteers within the school system.

Parker disagreed with the outcome. He had hoped he would be able to return to coaching with his father.

"The kids man, I love them boys and I'd do anything to go back out there and be with them. I was hoping this thing would get past today and I'd be back out there tomorrow, but it don't look that way," said Parker.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.