Lone Grove, OK -- A long time mentor and volunteer for the Long Grove speech and debate group said Monday he's been asked to step down by school administrators.
Attorney Fred Collins has served as a mentor and consultant for the Lone Grove Troupe since the program began, and says he was even offered the speech coach position by Lone Grove schools but declined.
Last week, Collins says Lone Grove high school principal Russel Nolan informed him he was to no longer have contact with the team.
"It was decided that I probably shouldn't be affiliated with the speech team. And that is a perfectly legitimate call on their part, because all I am is a volunteer. I'm not an employee. Never have been and don't want to be," Collins said.
For team member Wyatt Freeman, the decision came as a shock. Now he says not only is the team without a coach and a mentor, but the speech class has been cut from three periods to just one.
"The benefit of having it now is even bigger because now that Mr. Gunter is gone, every minute that you get to sit down and work on your own, you're going to need," Freeman said.
Collins says a high school English teacher has stepped in to serve as an interim coach and speech teacher.
"This isn't the team that I joined six years ago. This isn't the team I've spent half my life on. This is a team that has been oppressed and beat down and is trying to build itself back up but it can't do it on its own," Freeman said.
Calls to Lone Grove Schools Superintendent Todd Garrison were not immediately returned.
It is still unclear if the school system will seek to hire another speech and debate coach for this school year.