A Belgrade softball coach is speaking out as he faces accusations of bullying members on his team. The allegations have both coach and community on edge, as uncertainty about what the future holds for Mike Neubauer and the reigning Class-A state champs.
Softball coach Mike Neubauer has still not received a final answer on whether or not he has been let go from the role of head coach, but the position was posted online and interviews are being conducted to find a new head softball coach.
In July, a complaint was filed by four parents of Belgrade players, accusing Neubauer of bullying, intimidating, and harassing the girls during softball season. Specifics of the mistreatment have not been made public.
One of the parents in the complaint is a member of the Belgrade School Board, which is responsible for renewing or ending Neubauer's employment.
The Belgrade community has been heavily involved in the situation, with nearly 60 people speaking in support of Neubauer at a November school board meeting. More recently, a series of letters in support of Neubauer have been published in Belgrade News.
Neubauer adamantly denies all accusations of mistreating players. Neubauer told Montana Right Now last month, that the process has been extremely draining for him.
"The last six months have been the worst six months of my life," Neubauer said, choking up. "Not just my career. My life. Having my character attacked like it has been."
According to the Belgrade School District Coaches Athletic Handbook, "'harassment, intimidation, or bullying' means any act that substantially interferes with a student's educational benefits, opportunities, or performance...and that has the effect of... creating a hostile educational or athletic environment."
Neubauer claims the school district did not take necessary steps in confronting him about the allegations.
"As a coach, I would've really liked to know if there was a problem going on," he explained. "If they'd have followed chain of command or any procedure, we wouldn't be here today."
After reaching out to the administration multiple times, Superintendent Godfrey Saunders released the following statement.
Belgrade District has a legal obligation to protect the privacy rights of students and staff. Given that all parties involved in this particular matter have asserted their individual privacy rights, including Mr. Neubauer, the District will not be making any public comments relating to this matter.
Although an investigation conducted by Activities Director Rick Phillips' recommended keeping Neubauer, Saunders' own investigation did not recommend hiring or firing the coach.
Neubauer has led the Panthers to two consecutive state titles in his two years as head coach.
The final decision on his status will be made at the school board's spring hiring meeting on Monday.