A New Jersey high school baseball coach accused by former players and parents of creating a culture of bullying will get to keep his job, the school board decided in a vote of 6-3.
An emotional crowd packed into the South Orange Maplewood School Board meeting Monday night to speak before the vote on whether Joe Fischetti will be allowed to continue coaching baseball.
Parent Randy Nathan told the board at the meeting: "What if your child was in a hostile environment? Tonight, you have a chance to do something about it."
Nathan told NBC 4 New York last week his son was kicked off the Columbia High School baseball team his senior year after raising bullying concerns about the behavior of Fischetti, who in one video shown to NBC 4 is seen speaking aggressively to his team last year: "Don't question about why I do what I do, that's horse----."
Another former player, David DeFranco, filed a lawsuit earlier this month, complaining he too was cut from the baseball team his senior season because he complained about a bullying problem the previous year. He was only allowed back after he suggested to officials that was the reason he was let go from the team.
The lawsuit also claims that Fischetti and other coaches made sexist, racist and demeaning comments to the baseball team players. School and district officials didn't step in, despite his and other players' complaints, the lawsuit adds.
But at Monday's meeting, Fischetti overwhelmingly had supporters in his corner.
"Joe has had a great career in baseball," said parent Jerry Oriama. "He's had thousands of kids go through his team."
Player Reid Evans said Fischetti and the other coaches "supported me and wanted the best for us as people."
Many other members of the baseball team, which recently won a championship, were also in the crowd to defend their coach.
The school board said it has been looking into the allegations by parents and students for more than a year and revised the district's conduct and athletic codes after the investigation. The new guidelines were approved at the meeting.
The board also voted 6-3 to keep Fischetti employed as a coach while the investigation into the bullying accusations continue.
Fischetti was not seen at the meeting on Monday and has repeatedly declined interviews in the past.
Parent Nathan told NBC 4 New York last week that when the administration investigated Fischett, it found six instances when his son Alex was bullied or harassed. It's not clear what, if any, consqeuences Fischetti faced after the probe, as officials cited a private personnel matter.
"They don't care about respect, they don't care about character," Nathan said last week. "What they care about is winning, and becacuse they think they know how to win, they're going to do whatever they can to destroy kids."
The allegations of bullying came to a head at a similar school board meeting last year. But back then, too, he had defenders and was allowed to keep his job.