Soccer coach, players suspended after autistic boy duct-taped to goalpost

Published 1:31 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

NATRONA HEIGHTS, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania high school soccer coach and two players have been suspended for at least five days after an autistic teammate told police the two teens duct-taped him to a goalpost.

Austin Babinsack, 16, told Harrison Township police he was left taped to the goal for 15 to 20 minutes Sunday evening before passers-by heard his screams and freed him.

“I was really shaken,” the boy told KDKA-TV on Tuesday. “I thought I was going to be stuck there for a long time.”

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The Highlands School District, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, issued a statement saying coach Jim Turner, who was not present at the time, and two 17-year-old players identified by Babinsack have been suspended.

Misty Chybrzynski, a district spokeswoman, said the coach was suspended because of an ongoing investigation. The district declined further comment, saying it was a personnel matter.

The Associated Press couldn’t immediately locate the coach’s phone number.

“Highlands School District does not take matters such as hazing or bullying lightly,” it said in a statement. “The district issues strict disciplinary action on students who think these actions are appropriate or harmless.”

Chybrzynski wouldn’t say whether the coach or the boy’s teammates knew he was autistic.

“We officially cannot discuss the status of any special needs students,” she said.

Police may also file juvenile court charges against the two teammates, although Chief Mike Klein did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking additional comment.

Kristy Babinsack, the victim’s mother, said she hopes the coach will be fired and the other players expelled, though she has praised the district’s response.

“He was bawling. He was terrified,” she said of her son. “He could have died. He could have had a heart attack from being so stressed out. He was screaming at the top of his lungs.”

Austin attended the team’s game on Monday and became upset and quit the team after some players called him a “snitch,” his mother said.

She said the boy loved being on the team.

“There’s a sweat suit they all have with their name and numbers. He wears that to bed,” she said. “He wears it every weekend.”