HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. — The North West Hendricks School Board held their first meeting since charges were filed against former Tri West football coach Tyler Bruce.
After those charges were filed, the school board said they planned to terminate Bruce’s contract, but due to a state statute, those who hoped to see the board hear the issue at the meeting will have to wait longer.
Still, dozens of community members came out and shared their thoughts during public comment.
"You have failed this victim, and there is no excuse,” one community member said to the board in anger during public comment.
It’s been two weeks since investigators released details about Bruce's alleged relationship with an underage student.
The county prosecutor alleges Bruce repeatedly asked the victim for pictures, touched her inappropriately, and had late night video chat conversations with her. During the investigation, prosecutors said Bruce deleted information on his phone and removed his sim card. Soon after charges were announced, the school board announced he would be terminated.
“Once we realized there was new information available in the probable cause affidavit, that was the legal trigger for us to say we will terminate him. And we will move forward with that termination," said district spokesperson Donna Petraits.
But community members say it’s months overdue. Allegations were first made back in May, and Bruce was never fired. Instead, he was placed on paid suspension. Former principal Adam Benner is also facing charges for failing to report the accusations to authorities.
“It's an unfortunate situation for everybody, but the board needs to be doing the right thing," said community member Cody Brunes. "Sometimes doing the right thing is not always popular, and it’s not always going to be what’s best for your friendships, but you gotta do what’s right when you’re an elected official.”
In July, the board voted down a recommendation to fire Bruce, saying they did not have enough evidence at the time. However, due to the ongoing investigation, he remained on paid leave.
“We had no idea, no way of knowing how long the legal process was going to take, and we were checking regularly with the sheriff's department to see where the investigation was, hoping that they would come to some kind of closure so we could all move on," Petraits said.
But some community members came to support the board, expressing their concerns with the blame directed at them.
“I think there are many of us out here in this community that understand that perhaps your actions are constrained by that legal process,” one community member said during public comment. "It still concerns me, the public disrespect from this community."
Even with charges, Bruce has not been fired. The school board decided to terminate, but under Indiana code, Bruce has a legal right to challenge the decision and meet with the superintendent, which the district says he has.
Petraits said a meeting has been scheduled, and the whole process could take up to 45 days.
“We also have to be very careful that we’re talking about an individual that still has rights, that has not been convicted, and legally we have to consider his rights as well,” Petraits said.
One community member is gathering a petition to express their lack of confidence in board. She is glad to see charges filed, but she feels more needs to be done.
“I think that that’s the number one most important thing, that this never happens again," parent Sherry Gunn said. "To ensure this never happens again, we must get these board members out and new board members in.”