AKRON, Ohio — Steve Fasig, the head of coach of the Akron Ellet Orangemen, has been placed on leave by the Akron School District nearly three weeks after a player, 14-year-old Toshaye Pope, died after a team outing.
In a message to the "Ellet CLC Football Family", outgoing principal Michelle Marquess wrote, "Our hearts remain with the family of an incoming Early College High School student who drowned while attending a picnic with the Ellet CLC football team."
The message also indicates the district "has ordered a full investigation of the incident" and the coach has been placed on paid administrative leave from coaching at APS pending the outcome of the investigation.
Marquess said an interim coach will be placed at Ellet. Until then, other coaches will oversee practices.
Fasig coached in Barberton for several years. He was hired by APS in April.
He released the following statement through the Barberton Education Association Tuesday evening: "Toshaye Pope was a wonderful kid and our entire team is devastated by what happened. My heart breaks for his family, friends, and the community. I am fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation and have no further comment at this time."
Krista McCoy, the president of the Barberton Education Association, also released this statement Tuesday evening:
The safety and wellbeing of our students is a top priority for us all. The Barberton Education Association (BEA) was extremely saddened to hear the news of Toshaye Pope’s passing. Mr. Fasig is cooperating with investigators, and being a teacher and member in Barberton, BEA is working to ensure his due process rights are fully preserved. BEA will continue to support Mr. Fasig throughout the investigatory process, as we would any of our members.
Attorney Allen Tittle, who represents Toshaye's parents, believes placing the coach on leave was the right decision.
"Better late than never," Tittle said. "Look, we all want answers and I think the first step is placing the coach on paid leave to do just that."
Tittle believes Fasig organized the outing to Melanie Lake in Springfield Township on July 21. Tittle also claimed Fasig was the only coach on the bus.
Witnesses reported that Toshaye, who couldn't swim well, went underwater for about five minutes. Despite rescue efforts by lifeguards, the teen died two days later.
Last week, Toshaye's mother and father, Victoria and Timothy Washington, told News 5 they never signed a waiver or a permission slip for their son to go to the lake. In fact, they said they didn't even know about the outing until emergency crews called them to report the drowning.
"I believe that the coach should be held responsible and I feel like APS should because they hired him," Victoria Washington said.
"I think it starts from the school because you shouldn't be able to take somebody's child without permission," Timothy Washington added.
Toshaye was eligible to play football at Ellet because his specialty school doesn't offer sports. His parents said he practiced with the team for several months.
Tittle, who is considering filing a civil lawsuit on the family's behalf, is also raising concerns about the coach possibly not being at the lake when the drowning happened.
"Our witnesses are telling us that he indeed left the park and when Toshaye drowned, he was not there when that occurred," Tittle said.
Toshaye's heartbroken parents said his friends and teammates are also struggling with the tragedy. Parents waiting to pick up their children from practice on Tuesday declined to comment on the situation.
Tittle said it's critical to get answers on exactly what happened.
"It's been 19 days since their child has passed away," Tittle said. "It's been 19 days since the time of Toshaye's tragic death and it's been 19 days of trying to get answers."