Parent Says McKinley High Student Forced To Eat Pork Against Religious Beliefs

CANTON, Ohio — With an attorney by his side, the father of a junior from McKinley Senior High School shared his anger after telling News 5 that his son, who is a member of the Hebrew-Israeli religion, was forced to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of his entire team.

This faith forbids the consumption of pork or pork residue.

“Coach had pork pizza as a penalty for this kid not showing up for practice,” attorney Edward Gilbert said. “What’s interesting is that everyone on the team knows that this kid won’t eat pork.”

Gilbert explained how the teenager missed practice due to injury on May 20, and when he returned on May 24, coaches forced him to sit in the middle of the gym and eat pizza at the whole pepperoni in front of the team, or else his teammates would be forced to do extra drills and the player’s status on the team would be in question.

“To say the coach showed poor judgment would be an understatement,” Gilbert said. “It was humiliating for this child.”

The player’s father said his family has not eaten pork since 2013 as part of their religious faith.

“I felt very upset, I felt disrespected,” he said. “You wonder if they are doing their job or if they are capable of doing their job. Obviously, I feel the culture is broken.

News 5 contacted a spokesperson for the Canton City School District who confirmed the team’s head coach, along with seven assistants, had been placed on paid administrative leave.

Gilbert explained that discussions with the school and the superintendent are not where they would like, which means they are considering filing a complaint.

“This is a First Amendment issue and yes, there will most likely be a trial,” he said. “The coach was inappropriate in the way he handled it. It was a stupid act.”

A Canton City School District Facebook post explained on Friday:

“The incident calls into question the establishment of appropriate infrastructure for team management, discipline and player accountability. will provide additional information.”

Ruth R. Culp