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Owen High wrestling coach loses appeal for his job following incident with parent

Buncombe County School Board announced a unanimous decision to uphold the superintendent's previous decision. (Photo credit: Jackie Zale)

An Owen High wrestling coach, fired after a confrontation with a parent last week, appealed the board's decision to fire him Friday.

The Buncombe County board went into a closed session at Buncombe County Schools before announcing they had unanimously decided to uphold the superintendent's previous decision.

Coach Lucas Pokorny was fired after an incident Jan. 10 on campus that witnesses described as a confrontation with a parent.

Several wrestlers from Owen High School and their parents were in attendance to support the coach and over 800 signatures were collected in a petition to reverse the decision to terminate the coach.

Caleb Woods is a senior who says he thought the coach acted appropriately the previous week.

"He’s just a wonderful Christian man," Woods said. "Anytime any of us needed him he was right there you know, sitting there cheering us on, screaming, you know, lets go lets go. So it’s just a joke how he did what he had to do and he gets punished unfairly."

Wrestlers who were in the gym and Pokorny say the parent barged into the gym during a practice, verbally abusing the coach and getting in his face. The coach says he felt threatened and didn't know what the parent would do so he took him down with a headlock.

Brian Elston, Pokorny's lawyer, said he presented eye-witness statements from the students during Friday's closed door meeting.

"I think the statements by the students certainly gave further context and color to exactly how aggressive this parent was," Elston said. "Threatening, making fun of individuals with disabilities, challenging him to a fight, and again I think it’s important that those individuals that were in that room that were there that day believe that he acted appropriately. And that obviously did not transfer over to a board meeting room reviewing the facts afterwards."

Elston believes the board should have made an exception in this case instead of sticking to their policies regarding parent-employee altercations.

"We felt this fit the exception, I think the board felt like it did not fit the exception for it."

The players said there’s a camera in the gym. News 13 has asked to see any video of the incident but the school board says it will not release the footage, citing privacy concerns.

The board did review the video but Pokorny said he felt it did not help.

"I just feel the video tape didn’t do justice in our favor because there is no audio and it’s a verbal assault," Pokorny said. "I think that’s where the most impact was. I did what I had to do to protect the kids and their safety."

Pokorny said he knew the parent had a history of negative interactions and given a second chance, he would do the same.

"When you know the history, or the background of the guy that you feel is a threat and like I said I wasn’t going to stand back. I wasn’t going to leave my family, my boys, alone in that situation."

Pokorny said he will continue to pursue his passion for education and hopes to earn his masters degree. He said he doesn't know if he will be allowed to continue to support his kids on the wrestling team, but he hopes to.

The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office said no charges have been filed.

School officials are not releasing any details about the incident.

"We are not able to release specific details regarding personnel matters, but we can confirm that law enforcement investigated an incident that occurred at Owen High School on Wednesday. No charges are being filed," Buncombe County Schools director of communications Stacia Harris said. "The most important consideration in these situations is maintaining the safety and well-being of our students and keeping our campuses safe. We have an interim coach in place who will finish the season with the Owen High wrestling team."

A Buncombe County Schools spokesperson said the parent has been banned from campus.

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