Taxpayers’ dollars being used to right an Oklahoma school district’s wrongs in hazing case 

Residents in an Oklahoma school district are facing a 12% tax hike after a school district “dropped the ball” and settled a doomed hazing lawsuit.  

“The citizens of our school…

Residents in an Oklahoma school district are facing a 12% tax hike after a school district “dropped the ball” and settled a doomed hazing lawsuit.  

“The citizens of our school district are … affected by this settlement which the board understands and sadly had to do,” Kingfisher Public Schools Superintendent David Glover said, according to The Oklahoman. “This was not something the board wanted to do but had to do in this situation.” 

The lawsuit, filed by former Kingfisher High School football player Mason Mecklenburg in 2021, alleges mental, physical and sexual abuse within the football team.  

The lawsuit highlighted a pattern of abuse dating back to 2005, with video footage and testimony from former players of coerced fights in the locker room. That longstanding practice known as “The Ring” was allegedly overseen by coaches Jeff Myers and Micah Nall to settle players’ disputes.  

In one instance, Nall was accused of participating in a fight with a freshman student. Nall admitted to wrestling the student and claimed it was a “very, very, poor decision.”  

 Yet, for the students, “Participation was not optional,” one former player told investigators during an interview in 2021. 

“For instance, if players were angry at another player due to something that happened at practice that day, they would make them fight in the locker room,” the student’s statement read. “The coaches would watch, egg it on and laugh about it.”  

“If you had some type of run-in with a senior player, you had to go in the ring and fight. The Ring was for other people’s enjoyment, specifically the coach’s enjoyment.” The anonymous student said students were afraid to tell their parents, for fear of the hazing becoming worse.  

Mecklenburg also claims he was tased at least four times and would be hit by other players in the back with knotted towels while in the shower to the point that welts and bruising would be left behind.  

“In the locker room, upperclassmen would whip the younger players with wet towels until they bled or hit them with a stun gun while they were tying their shoes,” wrote Mecklenburg’s attorney Nathan Hall. “Older boys would urinate in the younger players’ helmets, put the helmets in the freezer, and then watch as the urine melted down the younger players’ faces during practice.” 

“Is this how you would want your child to be treated? What would you do if your child came home looking like Plaintiff in the photo above? Would you call the cops? Would you take matters into your own hands? Would you run for a position on the school board to make a change?” 

In a nearly 400-page filing, one former student claimed the sexual and physical abuse he suffered while part of the Kingfisher football team landed him in rehab. Another said it caused him to attempt suicide twice, according to News 9.  

In March 2022, Mecklenburg and his other lawyer Cameron Spradling offered to settle for $1.5 million. The offer was unanimously rejected by the KPS Board of Education, according to Enid News and Eagle. In April, the plaintiff came back with a new settlement demand of $5 million, adding the stipulation Myers would be fired, the offer was again denied.  

The board eventually agreed to settle for $5 million just days before the trial was scheduled to start, after Myers and Nall were charged with felony child neglect in October. 

In addition, school board member Dana Golbek and Justin Mecklenburg, Mason’s father, were charged with failure to report abuse, according to Ponca City Now. Court documents alleged Justin Mecklenburg had photos of his son’s bruised back and a recording of an alleged admission of abuse, yet failed to notify law enforcement.  

Last week during a school board meeting, community members voiced their disapproval as the money for the settlement will be coming out of their own pockets due to the district’s lack of liability insurance.  

In July 2021, Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust, a self-insurance pool that covered Kingfisher Public Schools, was dissolved due to financial difficulties. The district didn’t buy an extension of insurance, known as “tail coverage,” before the plan expired.  

“Just didn’t see a reason to purchase it from a company that’s going bankrupt,” former superintendent Jason Sternberger said, according to The Oklahoman. “We were offered in like April (2021), I think it was, and had so much time to do that. And there was no knowledge of a pending litigation. Nothing on my radar that was going to come up.”  

Superintendent David Glover acknowledged the district’s failures and expressed his own frustration with the situation.  

“Our school district has dropped the ball on a lot of things. There’s no disputing that,” Glover said, according to KFOR. “As the superintendent, I really got tired of us paying attorney fees and taking things away from the kids in our school. 

“The school district was really going to be on trial starting [December 5]. The way I looked at it is our kids were going to be on trial because we were gonna have to put a stop on some things. We just didn’t see an end. On the advice of our counsel, we knew we were probably going to lose the judgment and we kind of accepted we were going to lose this judgment.”  

Glover argues the district would have risked losing a lot more than $5 million if the case went to trial.  

The school has agreed to pay the first $1.25 million by Feb. 13, but taxpayers are on the hook for the remaining $3.75 million plus interest over the course of three years, according to News on 6.  

Kingfisher County’s District 1 Commissioner Heath Dobrovolny estimates residents in the district will see a 12% tax increase for the next three years.  

“When you couple the $3.75M with the 5.5% interest for the three years that it takes to pay it off, that’s where we get the 12% increase,” Dobrovolny said, according to KFOR. “We don’t know what the interest really is going to be, but we feel like it’s a pretty safe number just as a ballpark.”  

Dobrovolny says residents in the district can anticipate a $120 increase for every $1,000 worth of property value they possess.  

Some residents said that high of a tax increase could “cripple their household.”  

“No matter where the fault lies, the citizens of Kingfisher County should not be held liable for a $5 million settlement when it could have been settled for substantially less two years ago,” Kingfisher resident Jett Rutledge said, referring to the initial $1.5 million offer the school board rejected.  

As part of the settlement, Myers will not be allowed to coach any athletic program within the district. The settlement has no bearing on his teaching license, according to KFOR.  

In addition, district employees must participate in mandatory training on how to identify, respond to and prevent bullying and sexual harassment, according to News on 6.