MATHIS, Texas — *WARNING: Image attached below may be disturbing to some viewers*
Wednesday was the first day of the new school year at Mathis High School, and in the hustle and bustle of finding her new classrooms, sophomore Lauryn Pena didn't get the message that volleyball practice was to take place that afternoon.
When she got to practice on Thursday, coaches told her that she and other student-athletes who missed practice the day before were to perform bear crawls on the track around the school's football field as punishment.
With the sun beating down and temperatures in the 90s, the exercise that involves walking on all-fours took a toll.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was almost finished," Lauryn said. "And I was like, ‘Coach — my hands. Like, look at them."
The next day, a doctor diagnosed her with second degree burns on both of her palms -- an injury she says several other girls also suffered because of the bear crawls on the hot track.
Lauryn's father says he contacted Child Protective Services, filed a police report, and reached out to several school leaders for answers.
“When you see your daughter emotionally in pain, can’t hold back the tears, just laying it all out and bawling -- it’s frightening," Larry Pena said. "You’re scared."
Mathis ISD Superintendent Benny Hernandez released a statement Tuesday.
"The Mathis Independent School District (“District”) has received a report of injuries suffered by some volleyball players during practice," the statement read. "The District takes all issues dealing with student injuries seriously. Further, the District shall cooperate with any regulatory agencies to ensure that this matter deserves the attention it deserves. The safety of the District’s students remains of upmost importance to the District personnel, and all employees will continue to follow all safety protocols developed by the District."
Larry Pena was somewhat satisfied by the district's response, but he's eager to see if there are any repercussions.
“I hope they stick to their word," he said. "That’s all we ask -- deal with the issue at hand. (It’s) something that could have been prevented. Let’s create a solution. Let’s make a solution where it doesn’t happen again to any___"
"Any other kids,” Lauryn said, finishing her dad's sentence.
Undeterred by her injuries, Lauryn plans to return to volleyball practice Wednesday in hopes of making the junior varsity team.
Still, her experience makes her a little less trusting of the adults who run the team.
“As an athlete, I expect my coaches to take care of us and keep us safe," she said.