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By: Mia Rosati on October 27, 2013
Tim Buchanan, coach of the Aledo High School football team in the greater Fort Worth, Texas area was accused of bullying when his team defeated a local high school team, Western Hills, by a score of 91-0. In response to the outcome of the game, a parent of a player on the losing team filed a formal complaint with Aledo High School.
On October 18th, 2013 the Aledo Bearcats visited the Western Hill Cougars under the iconic central Texas Friday night lights.  It was clear by the end of the first half, however, with a score of 56-0, that the game was going to be unlike other legendary Texas high school football games. Coach Buchanan of the Bearcats was faced with a tough decision regarding how to continue play in the second half. Many coaches at various levels could sympathize with his predicament. On one hand, all of his players have worked hard throughout the past week to prepare to play in the game and it would unfair to instruct them not to play hard when they get in the game. Similarly, no coach should deprive his players of gameplay experience that practice imperfectly simulates. On the other hand, Coach Buchanan wanted to respect the opponent players, coaches, and fans while saving them from embarrassment. 
Coach Buchanan chose to simplify his playbook. Additionally, he pulled his starters early in the second half, he told his punt-returner to fair catch the ball, and a running clock was implemented in the third-quarter. 
Apparently, one parent felt this modified game plan was not enough and decided to file a formal bullying complaint with the school. The complaint explained, “‘Picking up my son from the fieldhouse after the game and taking him home was tough . . . I did not know what to say to my son on the ride home to explain the behavior of the Aledo coaches for not easing up when the game was in hand.’” .
The complaint also cited “everyone in football stadium” as witnesses to the bullying. However, the parent did not blame the players and “instead praised them for good sportsmanship and wished them good luck.” 
After formal investigation, the school found no grounds to support the bullying complaint. Western Hills head coach John Naylor agreed the bullying charges were unwarranted and stated Coach Buchanan handled the situation “‘fine.’” 
The Texas Education Code § 37.0832 defines bullying as:
[E]ngaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that: (1) has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; or (2) is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student. 
Further, the Texas Education Code explains that conduct is considered bullying if it “exploits an imbalance of power between the student perpetrator and the student victim through written or verbal expression or physical conduct” and “interferes with a student’s education or substantially disrupts the operation of a school.” 
Under Texas state law, the school must create a policy which “establishes procedures for reporting an incident of bullying, investigating a reported incident of bullying, and determining whether the reported incident of bullying occurred.” 
Aledo High School created a policy in compliance with this law by providing a complaint form on the Aledo School District website. 
While in this instance, bullying does not seem to be an appropriate vehicle for redress, the lopsided score of the game has caused some spectators to question Texas’ lack of a “mercy rule.” In Texas, the University Interscholastic League (“UIL”) is the governing body for high school sports and follows NCAA rules. The UIL adopted a mercy rule that will end a game once one team has gained a forty-five point advantage by halftime or later, but it applies only to six-man football, not eleven-man football. The UIL also allows coaches to voluntarily end games with large deficits, but Coach Buchanan said he was unaware of this rule. 
Forty-eight other states follow rules of the National Federation of High School Associations instead of rules of the NCAA. Many of these states have created “mercy rules” with point differentials from thirty to fifty points bringing games to an end. 
A representative for the UIL stated that anyone could submit a “mercy rule” proposal to the legislative council of the UIL to be considered for adoption. 
Although a mercy rule would have helped end the game before the score became entirely out-of-hand, it should be emphasized that Western Hills Coach John Naylor did not find anything wrong with the way Aledo conducted themselves explaining, “‘[Aledo] just plays hard. And they’re good sports, they don’t talk at all. They get after it, and that’s the way football is supposed to be played in Texas.’” 
 See Aledo High School Football Schedule, MaxPreps, http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/aledo-bearcats-(aledo,tx)/football/schedule.htm (last visited Oct. 28, 2013) (providing Aledo High School Football scores and schedule for 2013 season).
 See Randy Galloway, Mercy Rule, Anyone? Maybe It’s Needed, Even in Texas, Star-Telegram (October 23, 2013), http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/10/23/5272289/mercy-rule-anyone-maybe-its-needed.html (“By rule, we put 6 1/2 hours a week into practice. Friday night is the payoff. When you get to play, you want to play, and you deserve to play, even if it’s just running the ball, and even with a running clock . . . the whole second half.”).
 See Richard Durrett, Aledo Coaches Accused of Bullying, ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth (October 22, 2013, 8:02 PM), http://espn.go.com/dallas/story/_/id/9863505/aledo-football-coach-tim-buchanan-accused-bullying-91-0-win (reporting on accusation of bullying after Aledo’s 91-0 victory over Western Hills); see also Ryan Osborne, Was Aledo’s 91-0 Win Last Week a Case of Bullying?DFW Varsity (October 21, 2013), http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/10/21/5264501/was-aledos-91-0-football-win-last.html (providing analysis of bullying allegations from 91-0 football win).
 Paul J. Weber, No-Mercy Football: Sportsmanship Is Debated After Texas High School Team Is Crushed 91-0, Fox News (October 24, 2013), http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/24/no-mercy-football-sportsmanship-is-debated-after-texas-high-school-team-is/.
 Ryan Osborne, Aledo Coach Cleared of Bullying Allegations, DFW Varsity (October 23, 2013), http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/10/23/5271568/aledo-coach-cleared-of-bullying.html.
 Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 37.0832 (West Supp. 2012).
 See Bullying Prevention, Aledo Independent School District, http://bullying-prevention.aledo.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?&gid=3113882&sessionid=5232ac1a4f2e2089fde7eb87cc12bbc3&t=0fa39784648de17eb99eff3217d51fd4 (last visited Oct. 28, 2013) (providing Aledo Independent School District bullying prevention measures and procedures).
 See Betsey Blaney, Texas Dad Alleges Bullying in 91-0 Football Game, Huffington Post (October 23, 2013, 1:36 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/aledo-sports-bullying_n_4149881.html.
 See id.
 See id.
 Ryan Osborne, Was Aledo’s 91-0 Win Last Week a Case of Bullying?, supra note 3.