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Northwest reinstates assistant basketball coach

Published Feb. 25 at 7:12 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 26 at 12:14 p.m.

Northwest High lifted the suspension of assistant boys basketball coach Carl Caldwell on Tuesday after an investigation by the Wichita school district.

Caldwell was suspended Jan. 30. The school didn’t give a reason for the suspension, citing a personnel matter, but parents had alleged bullying in interviews with The Eagle. The lifting of the suspension was announced in an e-mail by Northwest athletic director Lance Deckinger before the school’s basketball game against Kapaun Mount Carmel.

“The investigation re Coach Carl Caldwell has concluded, with a third party following up on the concerns expressed by those associated with the NW Boys basketball program, including Coach Caldwell,” Deckinger wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle. “He will rejoin the team today. There is no comment on the findings of the investigation as it is a private personnel matter.”

The Eagle was unable to reach Caldwell or Northwest coach Chris Collins before Tuesday’s game. Principal Gil Alvarez said he was glad the investigation was over and that Caldwell was rejoining the team.

Caldwell works on the grounds crew at Northwest and is a former indoor football coach for the Aviators and Wild teams.

Five players have left the Northwest team this season. Two seniors quit early in the season, and juniors Logan Miller, Cortlin Standifer and Aaron Nicholson transferred over a period of about two weeks. Nine parents of current and former players told The Eagle their sons had experienced intimidation and threats by Caldwell.

Collins said in January that he had not seen any such actions. Collins has already announced his resignation effective at the end of this season.

The return of Caldwell frustrated Dale Johnston, the father of Brett Johnston, a senior forward.

While Johnston had not wanted to be quoted when Caldwell was suspended, he expressed his anger Tuesday when he heard about Caldwell’s reinstatement.

“I cannot understand that whatsoever,” Dale Johnston said. “I think it is a blatant disregard for the welfare of the students at Northwest.… Apparently the investigator came up with the conclusion that we’re all lying.”

District spokesperson Susan Arensman said dozens of people in and around the program were interviewed. The investigation was conducted by a member of the district’s Human Resources department and a representative of the Service Employees International Union.

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.