Suspended Dunbar coach doesn't want players to boycott football season on his behalf

Dunbar head football coach Lawrence Smith.
Dunbar head football coach Lawrence Smith.(Karl Merton Ferron, The Baltimore Sun)

Dunbar football coach Lawrence Smith said Tuesday he would not support a boycott of the fall season by Poets players as a means of protesting his one-year suspension.

At a meeting Monday night attended by about 40 parents and football players, some players talked about boycotting the season after Smith, who led the Poets to five state titles in his seven years as head coach, was suspended in the aftermath of a Baltimore City Public Schools investigation into an alleged hazing incident last fall in the Dunbar locker room.


Smith confirmed the suspension, which he said does not include his coaching staff. He said he wasn't sure if the suspension included his position as softball coach as well. He said he will appeal, but could not comment further about the situation.

However, Smith said, he did not want his suspension to hurt his players.

"I would not support any boycott by the players," Smith said Tuesday via text message. "I teach my kids life lessons and this is definitely one. I have seniors that are in the midst of being recruited and I would not want what is going on with me to [affect] their future. I'm leaving this situation up to my attorneys to handle the best way they see fit and follow their directions through this entire ordeal."

The turmoil stems from an alleged hazing incident involving junior varsity football players in the Dunbar locker room last November. Earlier this year, school officials investigated the incident, details of which have not been released.

Dynisha Woods, whose son was a freshman on last year's JV, said parents were told at a Jan. 27 meeting with school officials that the investigation could result in Smith's removal as head coach. She and other parents said at the time they were against his removal.

Monday, Woods said that she believes politics is behind Smith's suspension and she and other parents would like the new city schools CEO to decide his fate. The new CEO, Dr. Gregory Thornton, doesn't take over until July 1.

"We want the new CEO to hear our side," Woods said. "The position should not have been posted until the new CEO comes in, but they're trying to do it quickly because this is the only way they're going to be able to get it done. They know if the new CEO comes, that's not going to happen. He seems like a level-headed gentleman who would listen to both sides."

Vernon Crest, whose son William played for Smith and is now a freshman at West Virginia on a football scholarship, also turned out to support Smith.


Crest said there is a lot of confusion among the parents of past and present Dunbar players about Smith's suspension. He and Woods said they thought the incident had been dealt with earlier this year.

"There's a whole lot of hearsay with no actual evidence," Crest said. "Nobody's coming to the players and the parents and saying, 'This is what we have. Here it is. This is why he must go.' Nobody's saying that. It's just that we want to get rid of coach Lawrence.

"I just don't really think whoever's doing this has really thought this through."

Crest said the impact of Smith's removal could affect scholarship opportunities for Poets. If William, a highly-recruited quarterback while at Dunbar, were still in the program, Crest said he would pull him out and send him to another school if Smith did not return.

Edie House-Foster, spokeswoman for the city schools, said she could not comment on the situation because it is a personnel issue.

However, interim schools CEO Tisha Edwards told The Baltimore Sun in February that she was concerned about the hazing incident and the safety of the children.


"I want to make sure that anyone who is responsible for the development of our children is taking care of them," she said at the time. "I expect every parent, staff person, and community member to help me take care of our children -- to help me do what's right, if something inappropriate happened."

Woods and other parents of JV players defined the incident as "horseplay" and said Smith required the players to attend a seminar outlining the inappropriateness of hazing incidents.