Northview soccer player claims the coach photo-shopped her out of a team picture at the school’s soccer banquet ….
Parents and school district sources say they’re concerned that a soccer coach who was placed on administrative leave in the spring, during an investigation of his treatment of a student, has returned to teaching duties this week.
Northview High School girls’ soccer coach and teacher Al Lorello allegedly used digital editing to erase senior varsity player Jade Vehawn from team photographs and excluded her name from the team’s championship banner last year, Vehawn and district sources said.
Vehawn, who was selected to the first-team All-Valle Vista League, says Lorello also wrote her a four-page letter in which he criticized her maturity level, said he is not proud of her, and said her years on the team “were not that great.”
The Covina-Valley Unified School District placed Lorello on administrative leave in April and launched an investigation, according to sources inside the district.
Lorello began teaching again this week and continues to interact with student-athletes, according to school district sources who said they are are forbidden from making public statements.
Board members Richard White and Charles Kemp said they are aware of the allegations.
“I believe the matter was handled completely,” Kemp said.
White said, if true, Lorello’s behavior is inappropriate, but he reserved further comment until he is briefed on the investigation.
“There is still ongoing investigation, stuff going on,” White said. “There has been some appropriate action taken, but until that’s all completed, I couldn’t really comment on it.”
District officials referred questions to assistant superintendent of personnel services Bill Brown.
“We can’t discuss any specific details of any specific personnel matters, because employees are afforded privacy rights,” Brown said.
Covina-Valley Unified school board members Bill Knoll and Darrell Myrick did not return calls for comment. Board member Mary Hanes said she was not “up on” the issue and refused to comment.
Lorello also declined to comment.
A source inside the district’s athletic department, who was prohibited from making an official statement, said Lorello will not be asked to return to coaching this year, but he continues to hang around soccer games and “mentor” coaches.
Vehawn, 17, said she believes Lorello edited her out of the pictures and wrote the letter because she tried to avoid him after the season ended.
“I wasn’t disrespectful or anything,” Vehawn said. “I just didn’t talk to him.”
She said Lorello frequently criticized her and she became increasingly uncomfortable with being alone with the coach, who also taught her economics class.
“I feel that we were close. We went out to lunch,” Vehawn said. “It wasn’t really weird all the time. There was some times when it was just me and him, and it was kind of weird. I just got this weird vibe.”
Vehawn, whose adoptive parents are 85 and 89, said she didn’t want to get Lorello in any trouble and she “felt bad when he got taken out of school.”
But parents of Vehawn’s teammates urged her to come forward, Vehawn said.
Nilda Hernandez, whose daughter is on the team, said Lorello’s behavior caught her attention at a team banquet in April.
Vehawn started crying at the banquet when she noticed her name was excluded from the team’s championship banner and her face was edited out of a team poster.
“She was crying uncontrollably on the floor (in another room), so I sat next to her,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said she originally thought Vehawn’s name was left off the banner in error.
“We’re thinking it’s a mistake, it’s misprinted, he’s going to mention something about it, but he never did,” Hernandez said.
But, Hernandez said, she later came to believe Lorello deliberately excluded Vehawn.
“When we saw the picture was photo-shopped, we realized the banner wasn’t a mistake,” Hernandez said. “It was done intentionally.”
Vehawn said Lorello edited her out of several team pictures, including ones he photographed at the championship game and alumni game, and a group portrait of senior players.
“I remember being in them,” Vehawn said.
In one picture, Vehawn said her hands were locked with a fellow teammate’s, and their arms were forming the shape of a heart.