Congratulations to one of our partners, Jeff Whitt, on his successful outcome of this case! Please see the article below by Troy Provost-Heron for more information about the case.

“Hardin Valley Academy baseball coaches Joe Michalski and Zach Luther were advised by a Tennessee Department of Children’s Services employee that the pending investigation against both of them has been dismissed as unsubstantiated, according to their attorney M. Jeffrey Whitt.

Knox County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Martha Dooley said Tuesday that there was no KCSO investigation, despite previously saying that they were looking into the matter on March 15.

Phone calls to Knox County School’s spokeswoman Carly Harrington and DCS spokesman Rob Johnson were not returned.

“Although both are excited to return to their positions at Hardin Valley, they can’t help but feel the pain, disappointment and frustration of being wrongfully accused,” Whitt said in an email Tuesday to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. “Unfortunately, coaches within our community and others throughout this county have been ‘fair game’ for parents who apparently believe their input should trump those who are devoting their lives to teaching and educating their children both in the classroom and on the athletic field.”

Whitt, an attorney of Whitt, Cooper & Hedrick, also added that his firm will continue to represent Michalski and Luther as they “explore a variety of legal options which might hopefully send a very specific message to others in the future should they wish to travel down this surreptitious path.”

Michalski and Luther were both placed on paid leave from their coaching duties on March 15 after the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services began investigating the two after they were accused of intentionally and repeatedly hitting players with pitches during a practice in March. Both continued their teaching roles at the school.

Whitt stated that the accusations against the two coaches were “blatantly false” in an email to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee on March 16.

It was the third time Michalski had been placed on leave or suspended by the school district after previously being investigated for injuries to another player during practice two years ago and for a public intoxication arrest in February 2014, according to documents in his personnel file obtained through a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee public records request.

According to Sheri Super, the mother of Hardin Valley senior and Vanderbilt commit Ryder Green, the players were forced to stand in the batter’s box while Luther threw the pitches and Michalski watched from first base during the drill. A photo provided by Super of a player’s back shows red marks on his lower left side.

The drill was prompted by a player who stepped out of the batter’s box during a March 8 scrimmage against Webb School to avoid being hit by a pitch, according to Super. No one was allowed to leave the batter’s box during practice until they were hit by a pitch, Super said.

Two years ago, Will Neely, a former Hardin Valley pitcher who currently plays at the University of Tennessee, was treated for second-degree burns on his hands after Michalski forced players to perform bear crawls on the hot blacktop track, according to his father, Ken Neely. The injury cost Neely the opportunity to compete in a showcase in New York, his father said.

Michalski was investigated by the school system, placed on leave from his coaching duties and ultimately suspended for four games during the 2014-15 season. Michalski told school district officials that the injuries were not burns, but caused by friction on the track surface, according to a letter from then-Superintendent Jim McIntyre outlining his suspension.

The doctor who treated Neely’s hands also filed a complaint with the DCS, according to his father.

In February 2014, Michalski was given a written reprimand and placed on three days of administrative leave without pay after he was charged with public intoxication. The charge was dismissed after payment of court costs, according to a Feb. 18, 2014, letter from McIntyre in his personnel file.”

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