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Violence in high school football: Are adults setting the right example?

A central Florida high school football coach has been charged with battery for assaulting a referee over a disputed call. In another incident, a Texas coach urged players to hit a ref, prompting the district to investigate the culture on the field.

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Incidents of high school football coaches assaulting or encouraging players to assault referees have raised questions about the kind of behavior adults on the field are modeling for young men.

Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium/AP

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A small handful of violent outbursts on high school football fields has prompted some schools to reexamine the behavior that adults on the field model for young men who participate in an already highly charged sport.

A central Florida high school football coach is being held on a $1,000 bond at an Osceola County jail, after being arrested this weekend for allegedly hitting a referee in retaliation for a disputed call. Leo Davis faces a battery charge, said the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

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The referee suffered minor injuries after being hit in the face by Mr. Davis, officials say, while parents and coaches argued on the field over a controversial call at a sophomore league game at Liberty High School in Kissimmee.

Meanwhile, on September 4 an assistant coach at John Jay High School in San Antonio told his players to hit a referee out of anger over his calls and use of racist language, reported ESPN.

On a football field after a game between John Jay and Marble Falls high schools, a John Jay player slammed into referee Robert Watts, knocking him to the ground, reports The New York Times. He was followed by another player who dove onto Mr. Watts’ back while he was on the ground. The spectacle was shot on video and posted to YouTube, where it has garnered 11 million views.

“They just brutally blindsided him,” Alan Goldberger, lawyer for Watts told the Times. “He never saw it coming, obviously.”

Assistant coach Mack Breed admitted that he "directed the students to make the referee pay for his racial comments and calls," reported ESPN. The referee denies that he made racial comments.

The two students – 15-year-old John Jay sophomore Victor Rojas and 17-year-old senior Michael Moreno – said in a hearing that they consider the assistant coach, Mack Breed a "second father,” reported ESPN.

Officials for the University Interscholastic League in Texas, which manages all athletic programs for the state, encouraged the district to investigate the culture of the school’s football program.

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“There were multiple ejections, punches thrown throughout the game, trash-talking, and unsportsmanlike conduct,” league member Gil Garza told the Times.

“I didn’t see any leadership coming from the coaching staff,” Mr. Garza added.