Students' fight gets coaches suspended

CLEVELAND, TX While many other teams have called it a season, Cleveland High School is still on the practice field. Their first playoff game is Friday and they'll be two coaches short.

Coaches Toby Belt and Quirino Silva -- both assistants -- were suspended without pay last week. They are accused of tampering with evidence that may have implicated a varsity football player.

"The football team comes first," mother Dena Sandoval said. "It always has and always will."

The incident started when Sandoval started asking questions about injuries her son suffered during a fight at school. He claims a football player stabbed him and a district police officer beat him up.

Both Sandoval and the district were hoping surveillance video would shed some light on the situation, but when district police went to retrieve it, the tape was gone.

According to CISD's superintendent, Belt and Silva were let into the locked room where the school's surveillance videos are kept by the principals' secretary, Maxine Zeringue.

She's been fired over the situation. The coaches -- who have contracts -- have been suspended. While they say it was an accident, the superintendent knows how it looks.

Superintendent Kerry Cowart declined an on camera interview, saying "We don't have that video and it doesn't look good. I'm very disappointed. As district champions for a second year in a row, we should be celebrating, highlighting students and not the actions of adults."

"Accidents like that don't happen," Sandoval said.

The district police will meet with the Liberty County District Attorney on Wednesday, who will then decide whether the coaches will face criminal charges of tampering with evidence. Then next Monday, the School Board will decide whether the coaches should lose their jobs.

No one answered when Eyewitness News went by the employees' homes. The superintendent said the lock to the video room has now been changed, and only the district police chief has a key.

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