A former East High School football player and a current trainer have come forward with claims surrounding academic integrity and concussion protocol that happened at East High school in 2016 and 2017. Both incidents led to an internal investigation.
23ABC News spoke with former East High School student athlete Jamal Soofi and the current Athletic Equipment Trainer Billy Toledo who are claiming that the Athletic Director Ken Chapman took online tests to ensure player eligibility, didn't follow concussion protocol and allowed players to participate in practice while they were academically ineligible as well.
“Ken Chapman is behind his desk on the computer Jamal Soofi was standing over in the corner looking at pictures and just stuff inside the office and Ken Chapman is reading test questions and he starts answering them," Athletic Equipment Trainer Billy Toledo said.
Toledo said that’s why he came forward with what he said he saw that day in October of 2017, "Then at the end, once I figured out what he was doing and I believe the score was 96 out of 100 and he giggles and says probably the best test score you ever got huh? And looks at me laughing too and I was like this guy just took a test for this young man."
18-year-old Jamal Soofi a former varsity East High School football player confirmed Athletic Director Ken Chapman’s involvement, "I had an online health test to take for me to be eligible for football, I take it three times, I fail. Ken Chapman is in the room and I need help so he helps me, he tries to walk me through it, I fail it again, so he sits in the seat and he takes the test for me and finishes my three tests so that I can play football," Soofi said.
According to Soofi he would not have been able to take the field his senior year as a safety without the help of Mr. Chapman, "I had the class failed and that's what had my GPA to a 1.8 and I had a D in the health class so I had to pick it up to a B at least to be eligible and he picked it up to a B for me so that I was eligible to play football."
Even though Soofi’s unofficial transcript shows how his grade point average changed heading into his senior season, according to Kern High School District's (KHSD) internal investigation officials did not have enough evidence to confirm or deny Soofi and Toledo's claims. During that same investigation, Chapman denied ever helping any student with any tests or quizzes including Soofie, who still claims Chapman was instrumental in getting him back on the field,"If he wasn't to take the test I wouldn't have been playing football my senior year so that's really how you would know,” Soofie said.
23ABC News reached out to Chapman on several occasions and he did not respond to our request for a comment.
According to documents from KHSD, Soofie is not the only academically ineligible student Chapman is accused of helping get back on the field. In 2016, a different allegation took place involving a separate student.
"In 2016 Brandon Austin, 19, was one of our ineligible students that my boss Ken Chapman and Kyle Wylie the Dean at the time wanted to be out there, he's a phenomenal athlete they just wanted him out there on the field to be able to help us out. They wanted me to give him his gear, I refused to give him his gear because he was academically ineligible."
Eventually Toledo said he did administer the gear to Austin after Ken Chapman assured him that Austin would be medically covered if Austin did end up sustaining an injury while playing.
KHSD investigators found this to be true according to documents from their internal investigation which states that they, “found conclusively that an ineligible player was given football gear and permission to practice.”
However, while Austin was ineligible and practicing Toledo said something else happened to Austin on the field, “He became concussed while he was ineligible and I believe that's why they didn't turn in the accident report to the district office."
Toledo said he turned in an accident report to the school athletic office after the incident at practice took place which stated Austin was running the ball and got hit hard by two players. According to Toledo this report was never formally submitted to the district office. District investigation documents show this claim was unfounded but Toledo believes this was because Ken Chapman was attempting to cover up Austin's injury due to his academic ineligibility.
KHSD said Chapman did admit to another claim that Toledo brought forward in regards to the same student.
“The young man started coming to my door saying that Chapman and Wiley wanted him to get his gear back so that he could start participating. I told Brandon that we are un-allowed to do that because we haven't even started the protocol with you, we didn't get a letter from the doctor,” Toledo said.
KHSD’s report said in part, that Mr Chapman directed Toledo to bypass the district's concussion protocol, which requires a doctor's note to return to the field.
According Stan Green, the Director of School Support for KHSD, a mandatory concussion protocol training is conducted once a year for all coaches and athletic directors, "A student athlete is not considered cleared to return to play until we get the doctors note at the end saying he's cleared to returned to play."
Green said that protocol slowly works an athlete back into normal activity by moving from light activity like walking to more strenuous activity. If the student remains symptom free they can join in on a non-contact practice before participating in a full contact practice, "Kid gets injured Friday night in a football game, we remove him from play, we give him the paperwork, we talk to his mom and dad, we have the symptomatology on there, he goes to the doctor’s office that night or the next day. Doctor says hey you had a concussion, 48 hours later Monday he's at our school says here I had a concussion, we start protocol."
Green said there is one key step before a player is signed off for full activity, "We sign off on all of those steps, the doctor has a meeting with the kid and the parent talks to him, ok your good to return so he returns back and he can go into a controlled scrimmage."
Investigators said Chapman admitted to instructing Toledo to administer the steps just described but without a doctor's note from Austin.
Mr.Green said even though that it’s against district policy to allow ineligible players on the field, he said they would still ensure the students well being if it did happen, "If we have students that are academically ineligible they shouldn't be out there, but their our students we're going to cover them."
23ABC News reached out to East High School Athletic Director Ken Chapman, who remains on the job, but we did not hear back from him. KHSD would not let 23ABC News interview their investigators who looked into this case but instead district officials issued this statement when we originally contacted them for comment on this story saying, "These allegations date back more than a year and were thoroughly investigated once they were reported. KHSD is unable to comment any further on this personnel matter."
As for Toledo he said his job description has changed significantly since this investigation started and that he just hopes that the district takes academic honesty and student athlete safety more seriously. Soofi was sent back to continuation school after football season ended, never graduated from high school and is currently looking for work.