Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) fired wrestling coach Ryan Faintich last week because of an incident on Nov. 2 between Faintich and a BHHS student. Video surveillance footage of that incident appears to show Faintich pushing the student several times on the school campus. Asked for a comment about the termination of Faintich, Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, released this statement on Nov. 22:
“A few weeks ago, I was utterly disappointed to learn of an incident that took place where an employee was physically aggressive towards a student. Appropriate steps were immediately taken to thoroughly investigate the event. No stone was left unturned, witnesses were interviewed, and the video footage from before, during, and after the incident was scrutinized. The employee no longer works for BHUSD.”
At its Nov. 22 meeting, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education heard dozens of pleas from the public to reconsider the fate of Faintich. The board heard emotional testimonies about both the incident and his character from students, parents, and alumni. During public comment, Faintich himself addressed the board and the public to apologize.
“My heart was, certainly as everyone knows, in the right place, but the choices I made to make contact physically with a student of Beverly Hills was not the correct way to handle the situation,” Faintich said. “While I perceived a threat, and while I truly wanted to protect and safeguard my wrestlers, there was a better way to handle.”
“We want to be role models, we want to be leaders, and perhaps the best thing I can do is admit, truthfully and honestly, that this was not the way to handle the situation,” Faintich said. “I would like to apologize to the board members, to Dr. Bregy, to Tim Ellis, and to Dr. Horvath that have been put in an impossible situation.” Faintich received a standing ovation from the audience at Jon Cherney Lecture Hall.
“Coach was never anything but 100% supportive and protective of my son,” one parent said. “He has been an invaluably positive influence.” Similar sentiments were echoed throughout public comment from other parents.
Those in attendance traveled from both near and far to publicly implore the board to reevaluate the situation and hear all sides of the incident. Students who witnessed the event came forward to provide firsthand accounts. According to multiple students, the student Faintich pushed had been bullying one of the wrestlers. “What I saw was Ryan defending the wrestler in front of all of us,” one student said.
The victim of the alleged bullying also came forward during public comment. “I’d like to give my two dimes on coach Ryan and express my bottomless gratitude for not only him being a great coach, but just being the only staff member, the only adult at the school, willing to do something so that this kid doesn’t just get away after he unprovokedly took a swing at me on Walden Drive on Halloween when I was just hanging out with my friends,” said the student. “And the worst part is, when the school administration was supposed to deliver justice, they swiftly suspended coach. But the kid that assaulted me got away unscathed. Nothing was done about it.”
Despite the public display of support for Faintich, and frustration over his termination, the board indicated that it could not make decisions in a public forum regarding this personnel and employment matter. Whether Faintich has a future role to play in the district remains unknown. “I think that what is clear is the impact that coach Ryan has had on the school, on many players, and lives that he’s changed, and that he’s done it with the best of intentions,” Board President Mary Wells said. “And that couldn’t have come across any clearer this evening.”