BYRON CENTER, Mich. (WOOD) - A Byron Center High School wrestling coach has been suspended after allegations that he may have threatened some student athletes with a gun.
The allegations indicate that wrestling coach James Maxim encouraged high school wrestling team athletes to attend a sleepover at his home, Byron Center Public Schools Superintendent Dan Takens told 24 Hour News 8.
According to the allegations, Maxim was carrying a gun while with student athletes and may have threatened them during the sleepover.
The allegations arose after some parents went to administrators, upset that there was a sleepover at the coach's house and that a gun may have been present. The parents said that student athletes told them that Maxim was carrying a gun and pointed it out to the student athletes.
"The coach had gotten his handgun out and was wearing it in the back of his pants and so that really concerned me," said mother Darcy Tomkins.
They were also upset about what they perceived as a lack of response from the school administration when they brought their concerns to the school's athletic director.
According to Takens, the athletic director was made aware of the incident not long after it happened in early January, but the superintendent himself didn't know about the situation until a few days ago.
"I will circle back and determine when things were shared with administrators, and then make a determination -- was that handled in a manner that quickly, or was it delayed," said Takens.
Maxim, who has been the wrestling coach at Byron Center for two years, denied the allegations and said he did not threaten the students. He told 24 Hour News 8 that he is "heartbroken" by the allegations.
All parties agree that there was a sleepover that the students were encouraged to attend before an out-of-town wrestling match.
Maxim said that the event was not mandatory, Takens said. But mother Tomkins said that her son was punished for not attending the sleepover by wrestling on the junior varsity team rather than the varsity team.
"I truly feel that he is not fit to be a coach," Tomkins said.
The school's investigation has not yet discovered if there was a gun at the sleepover.
"I can't comment on that. I don't know that. That's been alleged," said Takens. "Obviously, with this situation, and him not coaching today, it will cause the kids to wonder and want to know what's going on."
Takens said that school and staff will work with student athletes to encourage them to move forward as a team, focus on wrestling and let adults investigate the incident.
Scott Gnass, who has known Maxim for nearly 30 years and whose son wrestles for Maxim, said he doesn't believe the allegations.
"I think a good person's name going to be put through the mud," said Gnass. Gnass said that Maxim would never do anything to harm or threaten the students he coaches.
"You hear one side and you think, 'Oh, he's a bad man,' or 'He did something wrong,'" said Gnass . "I think the truth's going to come out that he's not."
Gnass said he asked his son about the incident:
"I said, 'So my only words to you are, Did your coach pull a gun and threaten you?' He said, 'No, not in any way.'"
Maxim remains on paid suspension as the school investigates the allegations.
"He has a lot of support and I'm sure the school's going to be hearing of it because parents have told me they're going to call the school the Superintendent or the AD or whoever, that they're in full support of coach," said Gnass.
There are not any criminal charges related to the alleged incident at this time.
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