EASTHAM — Drew Locke, the former head coach of the Nauset Regional High School boys hockey team, was fired on Feb. 10, but in the seven weeks since, few details have emerged about the circumstances surrounding his dismissal. Some parents continue to seek answers from school authorities, who steadfastly refuse to discuss the matter, and there has been widespread support for Locke, including protests by students.
The school superintendent, Brooke Clenchy, has defended Locke’s dismissal, maintaining that an investigation into the case was “thorough and comprehensive.”
Locke was fired after the parents of one of the team members complained that he had shoved their son in the locker room at Charles Moore Arena in Orleans after a game on Jan. 12. Through his lawyer, Locke has “unequivocally” denied the accusation.
On March 10, the lawyer, Bruce Bierhans, said he received Locke’s personnel file. He told the Independent that it contained details of a two-day investigation conducted by the high school. Bierhans would not give a reporter a copy of the file, but he claimed that there was insufficient evidence in it to justify the firing.
“The allegation seems to be that Coach Locke shoved a student, who fell in the locker room,” Bierhans said. “But there is no independent corroboration of any kind. There is no witness that corroborates what happened, other than maybe the student’s brother.”
The father of the alleged victim, Olivier Naas of Yarmouth Port, has not responded to repeated requests for comment. Naas is a lieutenant in the Mashpee Police Dept.
According to Bierhans, the record of the school’s investigation of the incident includes evidence that Naas threatened to file a criminal complaint against Locke if the school did not fire him.
Nauset School Supt. Brooke Clenchy responded to questions about Naas’s threat, saying that it had nothing to do with the administration’s decision.
“A thorough and comprehensive investigation was conducted,” Clenchy wrote in an email to the Independent.
While refusing to comment further on the case because it involved a personnel matter, Clenchy added, “I can state that in general, any investigation conducted by the Nauset Public Schools is based upon the facts and evidence, and neither our investigation nor our personnel actions would be influenced by a threat of a criminal complaint.”
Parents of students on the team, including Marc Howard of Yarmouth and Dave Roberts of Truro, sent a letter to the school asking for details of its investigation.
“To me, and all of us, it’s been really unacceptable,” said Howard. “If something terrible happened to a kid, which it did not, but if something did [the administration] should have a responsibility to say, ‘We have a problem here and we’re taking care of it.’ These kids have written letters in support of their coach. They were completely ignored.”
Chris Easley of Wellfleet, chair of the Nauset Regional School Committee, told the Independent that “Coach Locke’s relationship with the school is based on a contract. There was a determination at the school level that he had, for some reason, not fulfilled what he was supposed to do, or something occurred which required him to be let go. It is my belief that the guidelines were followed. But if that was not handled properly, then he has a legal remedy to do something.”
A separate investigation of the alleged incident was conducted by the Mass. Dept. of Children and Families, which found a claim of child abuse or neglect made against Locke to be “unsupported.”
Social-media videos posted on Feb. 14 showed about 100 students, including members of both the boys and girls hockey teams, conducting a walkout at the high school in support of Locke.
A change.org petition asking the school to rehire Locke had 1,313 signatures as of Monday, March 28.
The team had just four regular season games left when Locke was fired. It went on to win all four games and then won its first-round match in the state tournament.
“I feel like it did affect us, not having him there, but we knew we were still talented,” said Cooper Guiliano, the team’s senior captain.