Inappropriate Coaching and Parent Responses

5 years ago

Earlier this week, a high school in my town fired its head football coach over allegations that he sent an inappropriate text to a female student.  I’m angry at his stupidity and overall lack of judgment.  I’m angry that school officials did not act in a more timely manner in this situation.  And I’m angry that the two former students who reportedly received similar texts from this same faculty member are too afraid of the potential ridicule they might face if they also come forward.  But, what I am MOST angry about is the backlash of anger the accuser and her family have received over this matter.

PEOPLE!  Have we not learned anything from Penn State?  Under what circumstance is abuse by a teacher or person in authority ever justifiable?  I don’t care if the student was disrespectful.  I don’t care if she flirted with the coach.  I don’t care if her uniform skort was too short.  I don’t care if she lay down across his desk naked.  HE is the adult and he grossly abused his position as a figure of authority.  Period.  Under no circumstances should a teacher EVER invite a student over to his (or her) home for sexual intercourse.

Which, apparently, is exactly what his text message said to this young female student.  How do I know this?  Her mother posted a copy of the text on a Facebook page.

According to several who watched the drama unfold on Facebook, the mother was distraught and asked for advice on a closed Facebook page (which she had created) for members of the school and church.  She was vague in her initial descriptions, even going so far as to protect the identity of the accused faculty member.  However, when she did as she was advised and approached school officials about the text message, she was told she did not have enough proof of inappropriate behavior and was ignored – even reprimanded – for her accusation.  So, out of frustration, she posted a copy of the text message for others to see and evaluate.  Let me interject here and say that I applaud what she did, especially under the circumstances.  In today’s world, technology can be extremely helpful – especially when caught in a “he said, she said” situation – in which case said technology can provide written proof of what transpired.  I also am proud of her for standing up for her daughter’s well-being and safety.  I would have done exactly the same thing, and more, if I were in the same situation.

photo credit: JPott via photopin cc

Unfortunately, once those parents who initially supported her found out it was the school’s coach – someone who was well-liked by parents and students alike – they turned their anger toward the mother and her daughter.  The family withdrew all three of their children from the school system after they received threatening phone calls at their home.  The daughter received nasty, hateful text messages from a former student, and others questioned her motives for reporting the coach’s behavior when all she had to do was wait two months until she graduated and then she would never have to deal with him again.  Not once did any of these people stop to thank her for having the courage to report this man’s inappropriate behavior.  Not once did any of these parents thank her for removing a potential threat to other students in the school.  Obviously this behavior has occurred before, but the victims were too afraid of being the recipients of this same backlash if they reported the inappropriate behavior to anyone.

When the Penn State scandal hit the news media, many parents criticized Joe Paterno and other school administrators for their unwillingness to handle the Sandusky situation appropriately.  And, rightfully so.  What that man did to those children is deplorable – and the fact that he was allowed to continue to abuse children for so many years while others turned their heads is just as disgusting.  But, we must remember that these things also happen in our own home towns much too frequently.  We must teach our children to be aware of situations that might make them vulnerable to such abuse.  And, when we learn that these transgressions occur, we must stand up immediately and protect our children.  Even if it means turning in someone we love or once had respect for. 

Teachers and coaches are the adults who spend the most time with our children outside of the home.  Thankfully, for the most part, they are valuable allies for parents and usually have a positive impact on children’s lives.  They are mentors, guides, and supporters for our children.  As a parent, there have been many times I have turned to a teacher or coach for assistance in teaching my children a life lesson.  Children need adults they can trust in their lives to help them navigate life’s tricky twists and turns, and if an adult betrays this trust it can have life-long ramifications.  We cannot afford to tolerate ANY abusive behavior by an adult toward a child – no matter how many trophies in the case bear his name.  And when a beloved teacher is revealed to engage in inappropriate behavior, we must always protect and support our children – no matter how much it pains us.  Surely fear of being exposed or not finding a replacement should not be worth sacrificing a child’s innocence. 

Thanks so much for reading!

Dawn Sticklen

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