The Schenectady High School indoor track coach who was suspended and later resigned was disciplined because she told a boy to wear a girl’s uniform during practice, students said.
Lisa Paparone ordered the boy, who is not being identified, to put on a girl’s uniform as punishment for skipping practice the day before. He and a teammate said he wasn’t upset by the punishment, however, and laughed it off.
Parents of the track members said they did not want their children to be quoted by name because they were describing the controversial incident.
The students said the boy was told to wear a girl’s racing Speedo — tight shorts and a sleeveless top, similar to a bathing suit. Another adult saw the boy and reported it to the athletic director.
The students said they laughed when they saw the boy in girls’ clothing, but the boy didn’t seem upset. He laughed along with them, they said, and added that he had done similar “silly” things in the past without anyone requiring it.
The boy himself said he wasn’t embarrassed and couldn’t understand why his coach would be punished for “his actions.”
The students also described a caring coach who bought racing flats and spikes for students who couldn’t afford them and photographed them as they ran so they could dissect their movement. She brought it down to the inch, teaching them to angle their feet and arms better to eke out the slightest increase in speed.
They plan to keep lobbying for her to be reinstated.
Without their coach, the students banded together to prepare for the Big 10 tournament last weekend, which they won. They wrote each other messages on the team’s Facebook page, organizing group practices and listing the appropriate foods to eat before the races.
Paparone went to the page, too, and wrote encouraging messages to the students, saying she was heartbroken that she was not allowed to go with them to the meet.
When they won, they posted a video of themselves screaming her name in victory. She wrote back to tell them she had never been prouder of them and praised each student who broke a personal record, even if they didn’t win their event.
A parent said she was startled when her son told her Paparone made a student wear girls’ clothes, but she said Paparone shouldn’t be fired for it.
“I feel that the punishment should fit the crime,” she said, asking for anonymity because she works for the district. “I don’t feel this is a crime that necessitated a suspension. Maybe talk to the woman and say, ‘You went a little too far in this situation, tone it back.’ ”
School officials declined to comment on the case, calling it a confidential personnel manner. Even if they did reinstate Paparone, the indoor track season is nearly over, with the students preparing for sectional competition now.