STEUBENVILLE - An Internet website describing itself as the world's largest petition platform, "empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see," has posted an online petition calling for the firing of Steubenville High School football coach Reno Saccoccia.
Change.org claims more than 25 million users in 196 countries, "and every day people use our tools to transform their communities - locally, nationally and globally."
According to the Change.org website, the petition calling for the termination of Saccoccia was initiated by Elizabeth Beier of Cockeysville, Md.
The petition message refers to Ma'Lik Richmond of Steubenville and Trent Mays of Bloomingdale, who were both found delinquent earlier this month for the rape of a 16-year-old Weirton girl.
Richmond was sentenced to one year and Mays to two years in an Ohio Department of Youth juvenile detention facility by visiting Juvenile Judge Thomas Lipps.
Beier is calling for the petition message to be sent to Steubenville School Superintendent Michael McVey, Steubenville High School Principal Shawn Crosier and Steubenville High School Athletics Director Fred Heatherington.
McVey said today he "supports the athletic program, our coaches and our system."
"We respect the legal system and will wait until the grand jury meets to investigate the case. After the grand jury concludes its work we will respond appropriately. We have cooperated fully with this investigation and will continue to do so," McVey stated.
McVey also said he heard about Twitter messages calling for a Saturday rally to support Saccoccia, "but no one has contacted our office about holding an event on school property."
The online petition refers to, "The tragedy of a 16-year-old girl who was raped by two football players at Steubenville High that horrified America. But to their Coach Reno Saccoccia, the tragedy is not that a teenage girl was raped, but that two of his star players will be jailed for violating her.
"You see, evidence from the rape trial shows that for months before the story broke, Saccoccia likely knew exactly what his players did and helped protect them," the petition reads.
The petition claims no players known to have participated in the rape in any way were ever punished by Saccoccia or his staff.
The petition goes on to state, "Even after the boys were arrested and charged with rape, Saccoccia kept his players on the team for eight more games. Saccoccia even threatened a female reporter with violence, telling her, 'You're gonna get yours. And if you don't get yours, somebody close to you will.' Coaches have a responsibility to train the boys in their care to be responsible men. But instead of teaching that rape was wrong, Saccoccia taught that the only thing that matters is to not get caught.
"It's the job of the adults in a school to defend the dignity and safety of all its students. In prioritizing a winning football season over a raped girl, Saccoccia failed to do this. He may now face charges of failing to report a rape. But whether or not he's ever charged, it's clear what the Steubenville School District needs to do - they must immediately fire coach Reno Saccoccia," continues the petition message.
The Change.org website indicates 25,000 people have signed the online petition.