(PARKLAND, Fla.) — Parents at a high school in Parkland, Fla., have accused an embattled substitute teacher and former cheerleader coach of implementing a pay-to-play scheme that cost them thousands of dollars, which the woman denies.
In a complex tangle of allegations that began last year, the parents of several cheerleaders at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say Melissa Prochila not only bullied their daughters but masterminded a pay-to-play system in which a child’s spot on the team came at a price.
“[I] feel like my whole world is shattering,” Prochila told ABC News.
Parents said she told them that if they didn’t pay full dues — more than $1,000 — their children could not participate with the squad. When parents asked questions, she allegedly intimidated them. Prochila has also been accused of name-calling, threatening to kick the kids off the team or demote them.
Joanne Gavin, a parent of one of the cheerleaders at the Broward County school, says there was no accounting for the $9,000 in cash that was supposedly meant for external coaches and out-of-town trips for the squad.
“I’d like to know where the money is,” Gavin said. “I’d like to have a booster club meeting. What are we paying for? What do we continue to pay for?”
The mothers showed ABC News stacks of checks paid out in the thousands of dollars for the outside coaches. But the parents were never notified or consulted about out-of-county trips. Their kids say they were encouraged to sign release forms for their parents.
The school board wouldn’t say whether the police are involved, and Prochila says the accusations are untrue.
“I’m not a bully coach,” she said. “The money is easy to prove. There are receipts for everything. That’s the easiest part. They can say a number; we can show you every receipt for everything. That’s the easy part of this.”
Gavin has proven tougher, persistently bringing the allegations to the attention of the school until Prochila was eventually banned. But dozens of students and cheerleaders tearfully fought Tuesday for Prochila’s reinstatement as cheerleader coach at a school board hearing. She had been cleared by two school board investigations, but was fired as coach anyway.
Prochila says that she does not know what she could have possibly done to make some parents so angry.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I lose sleep over that every night.”
The school district cited the board’s hearing as the reason she was fired as a full-time substitute teacher and coach, although she has been allowed to remain in her teaching role.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire