High School Basketball

Fired girls’ basketball coach says western Kentucky high school ‘wanted more white coaches and white players’

Bowling Green head coach LaVonda Johnson shouts Saturday, Mar. 8, 2014 during the game at Allen County-Scottsville High School in Scottsville, Ky.
Bowling Green head coach LaVonda Johnson shouts Saturday, Mar. 8, 2014 during the game at Allen County-Scottsville High School in Scottsville, Ky. Bowling Green Daily News

A girls’ basketball coach in western Kentucky will pursue legal action after being fired one season after school administration terminated members of her coaching staff because, she alleges, the administration believed the coaching staff and team needed to “reflect the diversity of the school.”

LaVonda Johnson, who was the girls’ basketball head coach at Bowling Green High School in Warren County since the 2007-08 school year, was fired from that position on Thursday. She went 254-56 in 10 seasons with the program, which won its first state tournament game during her tenure. The Bowling Green Daily News first reported Johnson’s firing.

Johnson’s assistant coaching staff was terminated following the 2015-16 season, she wrote in a press release. In a meeting to discuss that decision, Bowling Green Principal William King said that he wanted the coaching staff and team to “reflect the diversity of the school,” wrote Johnson, who is black.

“When asked whether that meant he wanted more white coaches and white players, he responded ‘Yes,’” Johnson wrote in the release. “Needless to say, we were shocked and offended by this statement.”

Greg Johnson, LaVonda’s brother who had coached with her since 2007-08, and Jalyn Savage, who joined the Bowling Green staff in 2013, were both affected by the terminations. LaVonda, Greg and Savage reached out to the school district through their attorney to schedule another meeting but the district “refused to meet with us,” LaVonda Johnson wrote. Complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, the Kentucky High School Athletic Administration, and other agencies, she wrote.

King called Johnson’s statement “a bold-faced lie,” according to a report from the Courier-Journal. King told the paper he could not discuss the situation further “because it’s a personnel matter.”

Because the district refused to have another meeting, “we appear to be left with no alternative but to pursue our rights in court,” LaVonda Johnson wrote.

Per statistics from the Kentucky Department of Education, black students accounted for 20.4 percent (244 students) of Bowling Green’s student population (1,199 students) at the end of the 2015-16 school year. At the end of the most recent school year, black students accounted for 19.1 percent (239 students) of the entire student population (1,247 students).

Johnson led the Purples to four 4th Region titles and to the state tournament as recently as 2016, losing to eventual champion Butler in the first round that year.

Below is the full release written by LaVonda Johnson supplied by her attorney, Jeffrey Walther.

LaVonda Johnson’s Press Release

LaVondaJohnson

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