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Porn Investigation Shocks Westport Parent, Coach

WESTPORT, Conn. – When Westport mom Melissa Panick heard that one of her 14-year-old son's football coaches may have given students access to a pornographic website , she was in disbelief.

"My first thought was, 'This is going to be Penn State all over again — how quickly will it be on the news?'" said Panick, whose son plays on the freshmen football team at Staples High School. "I look to all my children's coaches as mentors and role models, so it's horrifying."

On Wednesday, news that one of the freshmen coaches was being investigated by school officials and Westport police broke after Staples Principal John Dodig forwarded parents a statement from Superintendent Elliott Landon.

In the brief statement, Landon said school officials were notified that one of the coaches "allegedly gave access code information to a pornographic website" to some students on the team. The coach, he added, was removed "from any contact with students or players."

According to the Staples football website, there are three freshmen coaches . The coach in question has not been identified by school officials or police.

"If we can't protect our own children anymore, I don't know what type society we are," said Panick, noting that all three of her children play sports in town. "We have to be able to protect our children."

Although Panick is unsettled by the allegation, she said, she had no complaints so far over how it was handled by the school.

Equally upset by the news is longtime Westport coach Carm Roda, director of youth sports for Westport Police Athletic League. Roda, who has been a coach for 16 years, said he knows the football coaches at the high school well and said they are "dedicated and caring people."

However, he said that if the allegations are true, that person should suffer the consequences for a lack of judgment.

"People who are entrusted with children are held to a much higher standard," said Roda. "They have moral and ethical obligations to not only teach the skills students need for whatever sport they are coaching, but appropriate life lessons as well."

As a coach, Roda he said he hopes these allegations — and the national spotlight on the Penn State sex scandal in which an assistant football coach was charged with 40 counts of abuse — don't cloud people's perception of coaches.

"When the smoke clears, I hope people don't put all coaches in that one category," he said. "A lot of people volunteer their time and effort with the very pure intentions of helping kids find positive outlets through youth sports. A lot of good comes from sports: Kids learn life lessons, sportsmanship, how to overcome adversity — and coaches have a responsibility to help nurture those things."

The Wreckers freshmen squad is scheduled to play an away game at Greenwich High School at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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