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'It was horseplay' Bauxite student athletes under investigation deny sexual abuse claims

Senior Thomas Lester, and two other teammates who didn’t want to reveal their identities, said it was after stopping at Wendy’s that the players jumped back on the bus and started horsing around because they had just won a game.

Channel 7 News sat down with the three bauxite students under investigation who have been suspended from school since state police began a sexual abuse investigation.

They tell KATV no one was sexually abused on that bus trip and that it was all just horseplay.

The students are claiming that the two current baseball coaches on leave from their baseball duties condoned a culture of horseplay and fist fighting until someone either bleeds or passes out.

They say what happened on that March 2nd trip on the school bus was just horseplay and rumors spread out of control.

Senior Thomas Lester, and two other teammates who didn’t want to reveal their identities, said it was after stopping at Wendy’s that the players jumped back on the bus and started horsing around because they had just won a game.

During that horsing around they say all grades, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, were all just playing around and wrestling. They continued to reiterate during the interview that no one was hurt and everyone had their clothes on. All three players said both Head Coach Michael Mattox and Assistant Coach Steven Tew were present during the horseplay.

They say since the state police's investigation of sexual abuse was made public they've received death threats, and that the community is looking at them as if they were monsters. However, according to their accounts, they say they were boys just being boys just like when they were freshmen and were encouraged to fist fight seniors; a fight club culture that they claim continues to be passed down.

“It's been going on for years, he [coach] allows us to get in circles and just like really fight until either one of us passes out or bleeds or taps out,” said one student athlete.

"It's just a regular thing that happens, we've called each other out since 9th grade and both coaches have always stood there and watched us,” said another student athlete.

"[Reporter: What happened, from your point of view, on the bus?] Well, we got to Wendy’s, and after we went and ate and everything we just started everybody just started horse playing in the back and then freshmen joined in, but not only freshmen but sophomores joined and everybody was laughing and having a fun time...no one got hurt...I even made sure no one got hurt,” one student added.

"[Reporter: What kind of horse playing are we talking about?] Like wrestling around and now there's all kinds of rumors going around that we actually rape people but that was false and everybody's clothes were on,” said Lester. “The worst thing that happened was another senior, not me, had a plastic hanger and touched their butts, but he didn't physically stick it up his butt."

Lester’s mother, April Mendenhall, tells KATV it’s been a devastating time for her family and others.

"We want an end to this, we want to end it now, we want to go on with our lives we've not been able to have a normal life for a week," said Mendenhall. "My whole family suffered, all these players and their families have been suffering for a week."

The two students who didn't want to identify themselves, tell KATV they will be at the special school board meeting next week for their expulsion hearings.

All three students and their parents say that it was unfair how three students have been on suspension for 10 days and facing expulsion, while both Coach Mattox and Assit. Coach Tew have remained teachers in the classroom during the investigation.

KATV will continue to follow this story.

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