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Bullying claims date back years in Woburn High School football program

Student football captains defended their coach, saying "the leadership of the athletic department and football program is unfairly under attack."

It's been a turbulent few years for the Woburn football program.


Alleged Bullying:

Woburn school officials were aware of alleged bullying in the high school football program for several years before 14-year-old freshman Johnathan Coucelos was attacked by a swarm of teammates in the locker room last fall, according to court records and interviews with former players and parents.

On Sept. 25, 2018, three years to the day before the Coucelos incident, a 15-year-old Woburn player was kicked so hard in the head by a teammate that he stumbled, dazed, from the practice field and vomited, he stated in a civil case pending before the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The player alleges Woburn head coach Jack Belcher instigated the kick by encouraging older teammates to — in Belcher’s words — “toughen up” younger ones. His complaint says Belcher witnessed the incident but reprimanded neither the assailant nor numerous players who taunted the alleged victim with vulgarities, insinuating he was “soft.”

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Instead, Belcher instructed the traumatized player to return to the field for 35 more minutes of contact drills, his complaint states. The student said he felt ill and experienced a lingering headache, but he did not seek treatment from the team athletic trainer for fear of being further characterized as weak. What’s more, the boy and his parents allege, school authorities failed to correct the abusive nature of Belcher’s coaching after they reported the incident.

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