Soccer Team Tapes Autistic Boy To Goalpost & Mom Blames Coach

soccer team autistic boy bullied

I don’t enjoy sharing unpleasant news about bad things happening to children, but this story involving an autistic boy being bullied by his soccer teammates caught my eye because it raises a complicated issue. In this case, I’m wondering about the mother’s reaction, which was to blame the soccer coach as well as the children who harassed her son.

The incident happened on Sunday night at a high school soccer field in Pittsburgh, and the victim — Austin Babinsack, 16 years old — says his teammates duct taped him to a goal post and left him, weeping and terrified. He wasn’t discovered until a passing woman heard his cries for help.

His mom says it’s time to hold adults accountable for these acts. But is it fair to punish the coach, who wasn’t there when it happened?


I definitely sympathize with the mom, Kristy Babinsack. She says she’s certain the coach has been aware of the bullying that led to this particular act:

I feel the coach knew, he wasn’t there, but he knew what was happening. He’s the adult, these are kids. Let’s face it - they’re 17. We have to hold the adults accountable first before we can hold the kids accountable.

The boy, who has autism, has been really proud to be part of the soccer team. According to his mom,

There’s a sweat suit they all have with their name and numbers.  He wears that to bed. He wears it every weekend.

I don’t know much about high school soccer but if it’s anything like the soccer teams my young kids are part of, the coaches are highly involved with everything the kids do. I would think the coach would have observed any teasing, and hopefully did his best to shut it down. But without knowing more about what happened (was he turning a blind eye to the behavior and allowing it to escalate?), I can’t say what responsibility he holds for what happened on Sunday night.

Austin says some of the soccer players duct taped his hands and legs and all the way up to his waist. He was trapped against the goal post for 15 minutes or more as the kids tried to take photos of him and eventually walked away.

I was really shaken, I thought I was gonna be stuck there for a long time.

His mother is rightfully upset, saying he could have even had a heart attack from the stress. The coach, Jim Turner, and several players have reportedly been suspended for at least five days, while police investigate and decide whether or not to file criminal charges.

As for the school, they say they’re reviewing it with a very serious eye:

Highlands School District does not take matters such as hazing and bullying lightly. The district issues strict disciplinary action on students who think these actions are appropriate and harmless.

I’ve really been thinking about this story, imagining how I’d feel if I were the parent. I can definitely see how this mom would believe the coach must have been aware of the bullying, at least on some level. I can empathize with the frustration, and the feeling that something more has to be done when these all-too-frequent incidents happen. Maybe adults need to be held more responsible so they become proactive about bullying, knowing they could get into trouble if they don’t diffuse it when they see it.

On the other hand … well, it’s a tale as old as time, isn’t it? Kids doing shitty things to other kids. It happens, and there’s no excuse for it, but I don’t know how much adults can always be expected to do. Is it the coach’s fault that these soccer players thought it would be funny to tape their autistic teammate to a goal post? Is he responsible for allowing things to progress so this happened? I don’t have the answers, but it makes me think — and it makes me feel terrible for everyone involved. (I’m thinking, too, of the parents of the bullying kids — can you imagine how you’d feel if your kid did that?)

What’s your take on this? Should the coach be held responsible?

Image via tomvelez/Flickr


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