An outside law firm is investigating claims of discrimination and privacy violations involving a Virginia high school’s football program.
When Woodbridge Senior High School football player James Gillespie visited the University of Alabama, he couldn’t show his highlights.
“He did meet the coaches and everything, but he couldn’t provide any film,” his mother, Natasha Gillespie, said.
News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.
He stores his highlights on the website Hudl, but his mother said her son and the other players were locked out of their accounts by the school’s new activities director, Jason Eldredge.
Eldredge sent the mostly minority team this message: “You’re all free to return to where you came from. I will be happy to sign those papers. This is getting nowhere and again, I cleared all of you transferring in. Your welcome.”
“To tell people to go back to where they came from has racial undertones to it,” said Swannelle Wiggins, who has three sons at Woodbridge.
The players’ mothers say there have been allegations that Woodbridge football players were illegally recruited to the school. They say that’s never been proven.
The mothers say the school principal insisted the message wasn’t racially insensitive but meant to imply any transfer students could leave.
“Well, what are we gonna do?” Natasha Gillespie said. “He says, ‘Mom, I don’t want to play for Woodbridge.’ And that’s because he’s not comfortable. He don’t trust them.”
Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Walts said the school board hired an outside firm to investigate the claims.
Parents also filed formal complaints that the activities director violated students’ privacy. They requested the investigation look into those claims as well.