What Does an Online Petitioner Look Like? Ordinary and Extraordinary

Her words: “a collective we, speaking on behalf of those who signed”

Much has been made of The Steubenville High School’s self-described “Rape Crew”. Two are in jail, and many are under investigation; the children in the Rape Crew, but also the adults who appear to have enabled their actions.

Central to the adult network of is one head football coach Reno Saccoccia. He has long been presumed to get his way, per a text message at the trial: “I got Reno,” Mays (one of the convicts) texted. “He took care of it.” By many accounts, he’s a hot-head. When a reporter questioned him regarding the ordeal, many reports quote Saccoccia swearing at her, then adding, “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.” If Samantha Mae has her way, Saccoccia will be getting his.

Mae has an online petition, and a FaceBook page dedicated to it. It asks Saccoccia’s bosses to fire him. It had 82,557 signers as of March 31. This impressive number exploded from the already-attention-grabbing 21,955 as of March 23. The petition will be delivered to Steubenville District School Board’s Michael McVey and Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Daniel Ross. Mae included Ross, “as it seems based on just the verbal assault alone, (Saccoccia) is in violation of many of their (the Association’s) bylaws.”

I recently sat down with Mae, which in 2013 means I shot her an email, and we volleyed across the continent a couple of times. Hers is a story as ordinary as fascinating; a tribute to true democracy in action and a ray of hope for those of us convinced that “they” don’t listen to us. I’ve edited her words for clarity.

Me: Please tell us a little about yourself.

Samantha Mae (SM): I’m just your average everyday boring person. I’m 32 and I work in television production in central Florida. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to sit down at the end of a long day. I would say I am fairly politically active.

Me: What inspired/motivated you to start this petition?

SM: This specific story really upset me. News shows a plethora of stories every night of women being sexual attacked. It’s almost to be expected. But that’s why we have a justice system. Maybe there’s no criminal behavior (in Saccoccia). But he betrayed those he was supposed to protect. That is something that people are still willing to fight for, to call someone out on.

The thought of him not being accountable left me disgusted. It festered inside of me for a few days and the more I thought about it, the angrier I had become. But what could I do? I knew I couldn’t be the only person out there who was angry, so I made Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FireRenoSaccoccia

My posts reached thousands of users in reposts. I started getting messages from people around the world who were also upset, and asked what they could do to help. What could we do? The first thing I thought of was a petition. I headed over to Change.Org, which I had never used before, and by the end of the day, I had 100 signatures. I posted the link on the Facebook page, and it spread.

Me: What do you know about the coach?

SM: I know very little about Mr. Saccoccia. I know what I’ve been able to pull up online. Old newspaper articles, posts on various social media sites (prior to the case) and I have seen a few football interviews he has done. Honestly, I do not care about his life.

Me: The New York Daily News reports that Saccoccia provided character testimonies for the convicted rapists. What is your reaction to that / how does it compare to the things you mention as wrong?

SM: I am aware of the character testimonies given, and I have chosen to leave that out of the petition. I think a lot of people have the mindset that these boys, are still children. I surely don’t think this is an excuse, but I do think it’s something that people can relate to, which often causes people to get soft and forget the bigger picture. I think the best way to get my message across – is going on what we can all universally find wrong. Blaming a victim, verbal assault, and threats; are wrong. I really wanted to focus on that, and not lose anyone along the way.

However, when I started this petition, the trial had not started. We have information now that we didn’t. I am considering over the next few days – revising the petition to include the text allegations that he knew of the attacks, and tried to cover them up.

Me: I notice that you have since revised the petition’s narrative. What do you mean by “Mr. Saccoccia is only a football coach on paper”.  Is he more of a figurehead than a hands-on coach?

SM: I don’t doubt that Reno Saccoccia is a damned fine football coach. The man has 9 state championship wins to his name. You don’t get there by not being a hands-on coach. The figurehead persona, I believe was just an added bonus for him.

However, he has a responsibility that transcends wins on the field; he’s a teacher, role model, confidant, and advocate. I think it’s this specific reason that upset me the most. It’s what motivated me to rally for this man’s termination. I have never called for anyone being fired. That’s when it kind of dawned on me: he serves at the pleasure of the people. The people of Steubenville pay his salary – to help their children, not damage them.

Me: You have a very impressive number of signers. What is your next course of action, and when?

SM: Hard copies have been sent to Michael McVey and Daniel Ross. School board emails have been sent as well. Every time someone else signs the petition, it emails both McVey and Ross of that additional signature. I want them to know that we (a collective we, speaking on behalf of those who signed) know who they are, and have no problem applying pressure.

I have received messages from two people on the Facebook page, from Steubenville, who have told me that they have it on good authority that is Saccoccia is retiring this year. As much as I would like to see him dismissed – because I believe there are consequences to pay for one’s actions – either way it is a win for the students at Steubenville High School.

It turns out there is another similar petition, with over 82,560 signatures as of March 29. It is not known how many of those might be duplicates, but this writer has signed both:

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-steubenville-district-school-board-remove-reno-saccoccia-from-his-position-at-steubenville-high-school

https://www.change.org/petitions/steubenville-schools-fire-coach-reno-saccoccia

Samantha Mae’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/FireRenoSaccoccia

April 23, 2013 UPDATE:

We 134,703 supporters of Samantha Mae’s petition are likely to shout a collective “Boo, #Steubenville” across cyberspace into the School Board meeting room!

‏RT@washingtonpost – School extends football coach’s contract despite allegations in rape case: http://wapo.st/15Ebqhq

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About steventodd

Both parties are broken by big money...what to do? I'm a dad, husband, son, taxpayer, voter, civil engineer, reporter, blogger, rabble-rouser and honest guy.
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