- As of June
17, 2015, it's been seven months and
A different perspective
After two years of public and closed door discussions, a state investigation and a mediation session, the Brookings-Harbor School District reached a legal settlement with families that had accused several high school basketball coaches of bullying and harassing students.
The result of the settlement, which the school board approved earlier this month, is a public letter to the community, released by all the parties involved, that makes no admission of guilt from any party.
We reached the agreement and it has a confidentiality clause, because sometimes theres a general feeling that things that should be kept confidential, arent, School board Chairman Bruce Raleigh told the Curry Coastal Pilot this week.
The final decision to accept the settlement was made in a school board executive session this month. Two board members, Katherine Johnson and Alice Farmer, abstained from voting, and the other three members unanimously agreed to the terms.
The decision came on the heels of a mediation session between the families and Raleigh and Superintendent Sean Gallagher.
Raleigh and Gallagher, along with complainants Jim, Vanessa and Jordyn Keys and Debbie MacDonald, released a joint statement to the community, addressing the events of the past two years and recognizing their agreement. The letter is published in the adjacent box on this page.
Kate Wilkinson, an attorney for the Oregon School Board Association representing the district, said the joint statement is not an admission of guilt, but an attempt to move the community and district forward.
Its an acknowledgement on the districts behalf that if any student or parent feels their experience was less than what they wanted it to be, then they apologize for that, Wilkinson said. Theres no admission of wrongdoing.
The board also published a Coachs Creed, which outlines the expected behavior for all coaching staff in the Brookings-Harbor School District.
The Coachs Creed was one of the changes Dr. Lee Bush (former interim superintendent) implemented, said Raleigh. Weve utilized it this past year, and we use it as part of the orientation for our coaches.
The Coachs Creed can be obtained at the Brookings-Harbor School District office.
Wilkinson said any discussions about compensation were kept between the district and PACE, an insurance pool that represents many school districts in the state of Oregon.
Wilkinson said she felt the outcome of the mediation was an effective solution to the issue.
It was an open dialogue, a very thoughtful process, she said. All parties put in a lot of extremely hard work leading up to and during that process. In my opinion, it brings closure to what has been a very divisive issue for the district.
Jim Keys, one of the complainants, also expressed approval at the agreement.
We feel satisfied and we look forward to working with the school to improve the situation, he said. If other parents ask, wed be willing to give advice.
He said he hoped this was the last of the issue. We want to move on.
The case began when, at a school board meeting in June 2013, several members of the BHHS Girls Basketball team and their parents accused Brookings-Harbor coaches of bullying and verbal harassment.
Subsequently, some of those families filed an appeal with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). The ODE then began an investigation in which they interviewed students, parents, board members and district employees. They released a report in the Fall of 2014 concluding that the allegations may have had some basis, and began a conciliation process, wherein both parties offered different ways to resolve the issue.
The conciliation failed and the ODE set up a hearing for January 2015, which the complainants postponed. Following another delay, the ODE said it would only postpone the hearing further if both parties agreed to mediation. Both complied and the mediation process began on June 24.
The parties met face-to-face with a neutral liaison to attempt to resolve the issue, which resulted in the final settlement.
Letter to the community
To the Brookings-Harbor School District 17-C Community:
For the past three years, the district has experienced an issue regarding allegations from students and parents made toward coaches in the girls basketball program at BHHS. Following an investigation by the Oregon Department of Education, a finding was released that concluded sex discrimination may exist in the basketball program. As a result, a mediation was conducted between the complainants and the district. As part of the resolution, the participants wish to make the following statement to the community:
All activities with students, be they in the classroom or on an athletic field, must ensure that the dignity, safety, and respect for the student be inherently uppermost in the heart of the teacher and coach. To that end, discrimination, intimidation, or any form of misconduct or harassment, intended or unintended, which unreasonably interferes with the students educational or physical performance becomes an act that will not be tolerated in our district. The district pledges to hold our staff, both educational and extracurricular, accountable to the highest standards and ethics regarding the treatment of students, and will also set appropriate expectations for student behaviors in our classrooms and fields, so that a mutually respectful environment exists throughout our district.
To this end, our district has revised, during the 2014-15 school year, all policies relating to discrimination, bullying, harassment, and misconduct, and all policies relating to public complaints. A link now exists on the front page of our website that connects parents to our complaint process. In addition, the district has hired and trained a certified Title IX coordinator who is responsible for procedures relative to complaints regarding unfair actions with respect to gender in athletic programs, and misconduct relative to sexual harassment. A link to this coordinator is also on our website.
Further, in order to provide a learning environment free of all forms of abuse and coercive conduct, including sexual misconduct, all employees and coaches in the district were trained this year to know what misconduct is, to discourage it at all times, and to report to supervisors when the employee becomes knowledgeable that such conduct has occurred or is occurring. The district also commits to properly training staff in the areas of bullying, discrimination, and retaliation.
A Coachs Creed has been formulated that specifically addresses the standards, expectations, and principles of conduct to which the district holds our coaches. This Creed is now part of the Coachs Handbook, and will be signed by all coaches. Among other expectations, the Creed specifically states that coaches refrain from using any language that is threatening, intimidating, or degrading to the students in practices or at games ...and constructive criticism, not sarcasm, will be employed in seeking better student performance. All of our coaches, whether district employees or not, must be background checked, and all coaches will receive Title IX training.
Finally, the district hereby apologizes to any student or parent for actions committed by our coaching staff in the girls basketball program that have been perceived by said student or parent as having been detrimental to their well-being. Coaches dedicate themselves to the development of athletes character as well as physical performance, and comments toward this objective should always be positive and not negative. The district administration and board are dedicated to following all district policies and procedures regarding public complaints in educational or athletic programs, so that the students and parents in our district feel that their concerns are addressed in an efficient and fair manner.
The undersigned recognize and appreciate each others efforts in reaching resolution and facilitating positive change. We are committed to moving forward together.
By Jim Keys,
Vanessa Keys, Jordyn Keys, Debbie McDonald, Sean Gallagher,
superintendent Brookings-Harbor School District 17C, Bruce
Raleigh, School Board Chair, Brookings-Harbor School
Circumstance: On August 8, 2013, the Oregon Department of Education received a letter of appeal from parent of a student alleging sex discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation, against students affiliated with the Brookings-Harbor School District girls' high school basketball program.
ODE Conciliation Recommendation
The Department determined (sex) discrimination may exist in the Brookings-Harbor School District, and expects the complainants and the District to attempt conciliation to reach agreement regarding the allegations of emotional and verbal harassment, intimidation and retaliation.
The Department encourages Student A1, C1 and Parent A1, A2 and A3 and the District to pursue the conciliation process in earnest. It also encourages all parties to consider, in addition to the concerns presented by all parties, addressing the following topics:
1. Prompt and equitable requirements and grievance procedures;
If conciliation fails to resolve the parties' differences within 30 days, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction shall promptly establish a date for a hearing on the complaint. Said hearing shall be conducted within 30 days of failure of conciliation unless both parties agree to an extension of the period. The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with provisions of Oregon's Administrative Procedures Act.
Dated this 17th day of November, 2014
Those interested in
knowing more about this situation Contact
After exhausting local procedures as described in the policy and administrative regulation Public Appeals and Complaints about Alleged Violation of Standards or 45 or more days after filing a written complaint alleging violation of standards with the school district (whichever occurs first), any complainant who resides in the school district or any parent of students attending school in the district may make a direct appeal to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The appeal shall be in writing and shall contain:
The name and address of the person bringing the appeal and the district in which that person resides;
1. Upon receipt of the appeal, the state superintendent shall give notice of the appeal by sending a copy of the appeal, via certified mail, to the district. Within 30 days of receipt of notice, the district shall file a written report with the state superintendent which shall include:
a. A statement of facts;
2. Upon receipt of the report, the state superintendent shall review the appeal and report and determine whether a violation of standards has been properly alleged, and that the requirements contained in Sections (1) and (2) of this rule have been satisfied. After this determination, the state superintendent may dismiss the appeal or may notify all parties that the appeal has been accepted.
3. If the appeal is accepted, the state superintendent shall take such action as is deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to:
a. Appointing a conciliator to meet with the parties to work toward a settlement. If no settlement is reached within 45 days, the state superintendent may schedule a contested case hearing as provided in ORS 183.410 to 183.470 or allow additional time for conciliation;
4. At any time during an appeal the parties may agree to settle the issue. The party bringing the appeal may at any time file a written request that the appeal be withdrawn. When such a request is received, the state superintendent shall terminate all further action regarding the appeal.
5. After a final review, the state superintendent may find the district deficient under ORS 327.103
effect of finding of deficiency
(1) All school districts are presumed to maintain a standard school district until the school district has been found to be deficient by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, pursuant to standards and rules of the State Board of Education.
(2) If any deficiencies are not corrected before the beginning of the school year next following the date of the finding of deficiency and if an extension has not been granted under subsection (3) of this section, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may withhold portions of State School Fund moneys otherwise allocated to the school district for operating expenses until such deficiencies are corrected unless the withholding would create an undue hardship, as determined pursuant to rules of the State Board of Education.
(3) (a) Within 90 days of the finding of deficiency, a school district found not to be in compliance shall submit a plan, acceptable to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, for meeting standardization requirements. A team of Department of Education staff shall contact the school district and offer technical assistance. When an acceptable plan for meeting standardization requirements has been submitted, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may allow an extension of time before withholding moneys, not to exceed 12 months, if the superintendent determines that such deficiencies cannot be corrected or removed before the beginning of the next school year.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this subsection, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may not grant an extension of time if a school district could correct the deficiency through merger.
(4) (a) Regardless of whether the Superintendent of Public Instruction has granted a school district an extension of time under subsection (3) of this section and except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection, a school district that fails to submit a plan for meeting standardization requirements within the time specified by the superintendent may not receive further State School Fund moneys until a plan acceptable to the superintendent is submitted.
(b) Pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may extend the time specified for submitting a plan if the superintendent determines that a human-created disaster or a natural disaster affects the ability of the school district to comply with the date requirement. [Formerly 327.032; 1989 c.491 §5; 1991 c.693 §32; 1995 c.660 §47a; 2003 c.390 §§1,3; 2009 c.184 §4]
issued on coaching complaints" front page, Curry
Coastal Pilot, November 22, 2014
A report recently issued by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) details the allegations of several current and former students who played on the girls basketball team during the 2012-2013 school year.
The department determined that (sex) discrimination may exist in the Brookings-Harbor School District, the report concluded. Complainants and the district will attempt conciliation to reach agreement regarding the allegations of district personnel engaging in emotional and verbal harassment along with retaliation against students affiliated with the girls basketball program. The conciliation will address incidents, and the failure of the district to properly investigate or address allegations raised by parents and students.
The names of the students and parents who filed the complaints were not listed in the report.
The allegations first came to light at a June 19, 2013, school board meeting when parents and several current and former female basketball players expressed their concerns. The parents and students said they went to the board after unsuccessful efforts to resolve the issues with head coach Chris Schofield, then-assistant coach Daryn Farmer, who has since resigned, and high school Principal Larry Martindale.
When the Pilot contacted Farmer on Tuesday he declined to comment. Efforts on Tuesday to reach Schofield or Martindale, who retired earlier this year, were unsuccessful.
During the June 19, 2013, board meeting, several students talked about their experiences on the team and concerns they had regarding the coaches conduct. Specifically they accused Farmer and Schofield of harassment, intimidation, sex discrimination, and retaliation against students.
The accusations more than two dozen were listed in the report included instances of verbal harassment, such as name calling on the basis of physical appearance, mocking students to the point of tears, and yelling at students for crying.
The school board launched an investigation into the complaints and later determined there was not enough evidence to support the complaints.
Undaunted, parents and students filed an appeal on Aug. 28, 2013, with the ODE, which launched an independent investigation in September, 2013.
From October through December of that year, an ODE investigator met several times with the districts then-Superintendent Brian Hodge to discuss the allegations. In December 2013, the school district issued a written response about the allegations to the ODE, along with documents requested by the state agency.
Because of the difference in viewpoints between the school district and the complainants, the ODE investigator returned to Brookings to conduct on-campus interviews with students, parents and school officials. The investigator also sent letters seeking comments from current and past members of the girls basketball team and their families.
In January, 2014, the investigator conducted one-on-one interviews with current and former players and their families, as well as two school board members whose children also played on the team.
In April 2014, the school districts lawyer provided ODE with a five-page narrative response to the allegations. Later in April and May, the ODE investigator personally interviewed Hodge, who has since resigned, as well as Martindale, the athletic director, a current board member, and a former board member.
It is unclear to the Pilot exactly when the ODE issued the results of its investigation. This newspaper obtained a copy of it earlier this week.
In concluding that (sex) discrimination may exist in the Brookings-Harbor School District, the ODE instructed district officials to meet with the complainants to discuss the allegations. District officials would then have to decide whether they believe these allegations to be true and, if they choose to take action, decide how to discipline the parties involved.
The ODE does not have the authority to determine guilt or innocence in the matter, only to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations.
On Tuesday, school board chairman Bruce Raleigh explained the next steps for the district.
We have received the document and reviewed it, and are in the process of working with our attorneys to follow the directives weve been given, Raleigh said.
He added that part of the process would likely include working with the families who had lodged complaints against the coaches.
Raleigh noted that most of the discussions process would be conducted by the district superintendent, Dr. Lee Bush who, along with a lawyer, would spend the next 30 days determining what actions, if any, the board should take regarding the allegations.
Bush said the process he would be conducting, called conciliation, was similar to mediation, but did not necessarily ensure that the two parties would sit down face-to-face.
I am working with the ODE and a lawyer from the Oregon School Board Association, he said, to ensure the respect and dignity of all students. We need to make sure these policies are out there in good order.
If the issue is not
resolved at the end of the 30-day period, the families will
be given a hearing with the State Superintendent of Public
The Pilot November 22nd front-page story "Report issued on coaching complaints" was quite good. However, here are some things to think about. I write this not as criticism but for background and possible clarity.
1. "The allegations first came to light at a June 19, 2013 school board meeting..." There had been many allegations by individuals to school and district officials which had not been made public. I believe that one of the parents at that meeting found out that two girl's basketball coaches (Darryl Farmer and Chris Schofield) were going to be approved for extra duty contracts and grouped with other contracts not mentioning individual names at the meeting and rallied other parents and daughters to attend this board meeting. The minutes aren't clear of who spoke but Debbie McDonald, Vanessa Keys, Joanna Floyd, Kaitlin Mitts, Molly Joyce, David Freeman, Ciara Freeman, Peter Joyce, Maysea Young and Steve Young were shown as a group expressing concerns. (Listen to the audio tape of that meeting.) Jamie Ryan stopped the process saying this needed to be handled in executive session. Brian Hodge added that due process rights were not being considered (of the coaches) This executive session has never happened. Whose due process rights have been denied?
As I remember it, later in the board meeting the extra duty contracts were presented as a group without identifying the individuals involved. Discussion brought out that fact that these two coaches were part of that group. Still, I believe, they were grouped with the others for a vote of approval. Allene Fewell, the residing board chair, asked that they be removed from the list before the vote and only then were they removed from the motion to approve.
2. "Specifically they accused Farmer and Schofield of...sex discrimination..." I believe only one of them was accused of sex discrimination - the one who commented on the girl's mouth sore.
3. "The school board launched an investigation into the complaints and later determined there was not enough evidence to support the complaints." Actually, they went to the organization that supports school boards (Oregon School Board Association) who, I believe recommended going to their insurance company, Property and Casualty Coverage for Education (PACE), to investigate. Not exactly an independent investigation. On Page 14, point 38 of the ODE report, it stated "... the district investigated and cleared the assistant coach of any wrongdoing." On page 23, second paragraph of the ODE report it added "...the Department's investigation did not find a single staff member, parent, or student who was interviewed in connection with this investigation."
It appears that PACE, the school board's independent investigators, choose not to interview any of those ten parents and students. It appears that PACE only interviewed those mentioned in the complaints and people that supported them. And, while not identified in the ODE report, where the report lists one current board member and one previous board member, and then later it mentions two board members, can you guess who they picked?
4. "It is unclear to the Pilot exactly when the ODE issued the results..." The report was officially issued November 17, 2014 (see page 26) Additional information can be accessed from Winston Cornwall, Civil Rights Education Specialist, Office of Learning, Education Equity Unit, Oregon Department of Education, 255 Capitol Street NE, Salem, Oregon 97310. Phone: 503.947.5675, Fax: 503.378.5156, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ode.state.or.us
5. "...but did not necessarily ensure that the two parties would sit down face-to-face." Again, as I understand it, the district nor the school board has yet to allow access by the 10 parents and students or interviewed any of them since the June 19, 2013 board meeting. The private investigator made their decisions without interviewing any of them. Now, it looks like the district and board may be making decisions again without ever giving the parents and students their opportunity to address these bodies. Especially since it's been 17 months since the June 19, 2013 regular board meeting.
6. Dr. Lee Bush said, according to the article, "I am working with the ODE and a lawyer from the Oregon School Board Association..." I hope to trust Dr. Bush that his primary goal is to find the truth and "...to ensure the respect and dignity of all students." Instead of going back with the people who botched the original investigation, I sure wish the board had selected someone like Jim Buck, the man who headed the investigation into Brian Hodge's tenure as Superintendent. Jim I would trust.
After all of the run-around these student athletes have gotten, two of the coaches, Schofield and Gonzales are still around. I wonder if these students and the other former players who quit because of this kind of treatment, have had to alter their life goals and possibly had to give up a college education because they needed that basketball or other sports scholarship to attend? Let's hope justice is served! Stay tuned.
I have been an active citizen in the affairs of this school district since around 2005 or 2006, contributing several thousands dollars in various activities like the "Through My Eyes" essay contest" with BHHS seniors for 7 or 8 years. The Pilot would print a winning essay in each issue during April, Alcohol Awareness month.
I developed and got funding from Fred Meyer, Wayne Taylor Insurance and Dairy Queen for a Bully Prevention Program that gave away gift certificates, bookmarks and 1,600 orange bracelets to BHSD students and brought the Bully movie to the Redwood Cinema for free showings of both the PG-13 and G versions, among other projects
I continue to serve as independent oversight having attended almost all regular and special board meetings for several years. The first special board meeting I missed because I was staffing a workshop with about 130 7th and 8th graders from Rogue River Junior/Senior High School, the Superintendent In that board meeting, Superintendant Brian Hodge verbally attacked me and my character, intent and actions, involving this school district. He went on to say that I hadn't made any constructive contributions in the last four years. A request for a meeting to address his concerns that were expressed publicly in my absense, was never granted. He wasn't a man to work out in the open and on few occasions ever responded to my emails. He had once said in a special board meeting that he preferred phone conversations to email since emails are public record. Well, more than that is public record now, thank God.
School District 17-C: Coach's Creed
As a coach in the Brookings-Harbor 17-C School District, I will:
1. Pledge myself to uphold the high standards and expectations of the District in all my associations with team members, their parents, spectators, and opposing teams and their guests.
2. Exemplify the principles of good sportsmanship and instill them in the students under my supervision and care. I will not permit any unsportsmanlike conduct from players or spectators representing the team I am coaching.
3. Strive by personal example to display the qualities of leadership that will inspire students toward the goal of good leadership and sportsmanship.
4. Refrain from using any language that is threatening, intimidating, or degrading to the students in practices or at games, and refrain from any foul language. Constuctive criticism, not sarcasm, will be employed in seeking better student performance.
5. Never use physical force or inflict physical harm to any student in the program.
6. Hold in high regard the safety of every student in my care.
7. Address all parental requests or concerns to the best of my ability and in a timely manner, and follow all District procedural guidelines regarding the formal complaint process if initiated.
8. Abide by and uphold the rules and regulations governing athletic contests as established by the OSAA.
9. Through my program, instill good character traits with the students, including determination, perseverance, honesty, and consideration and tolerance for others.
10. Hold open practices that are available for parents, with the understanding that parents adhere to District guidelines thereof. Give students the playing time that they deserve.
As a coach, I have read the Coach's Creed and fully agree with the conditions of the creed. I understand that the team I am coaching is not my team, but a District team, and I understand that I may be relieved of my coaching duties if found in major violation of District policies, OSAA rules or regulations, or Oregon laws.
The November 17th ODE report on the bullying and harassment of members of the girl's basketball team vindicates the girls and their recount of what they had to endured both before reporting and up to November 17, 2014 date. As of June 17, 2015, the situation has not been resolved.
This 26-page report will go a long way to restore students confidence in reporting harassment without the fear of this kind of retribution from the district, school board, school administrators, sports department, the previous sports editor from our local newspaper and the title nine coordinator. While several of the perpetrators are gone, there are some who remain. It depends solely on what actions the Brookings-Harbor School Board (BHSB) is willing to take.
One statistic from the 2014 Student Wellness Survey that I didn't include in my Saturday November 15, 2014 letter to the editor was the fact that more than a quarter of today's BHHS seniors, and almost 18% of our 8th graders had seriously considered suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey. And, while the 6th graders haven't been allowed to take the survey since 2010, almost 8% of other county 6th graders fell into that category. The BHSB can continue to ignore these surveys or they can use the information as a red flag to do something now. Source: www.brookings.k12.or.us/cms_files/resources/1974_234%20District%20OHT.pdf
The BHSB had until December 16, 2014 to hold a conciliation with the complaints. Update: On July 14, 2015 it was announced that an agreement had been reached that made no admission of guilt from anyone involved and a gag-order was placed on everyone involved to prevent them from discussing it. A win for the alleged adult abuser against the alleged student victims. So little, if anything, has changed in the district to make it safer for the students except another piece of paper - see the Coach's Creed - that carries the only consequence that the coach "may" be relieved of my "coaching duties" if found in "major violation" of District policies, OSAA rules or regulations, or Oregon laws. In fact, with no admission of guilt this time it actually supports abusers to continue doing what they have been doing for years in this school district. They got the students and parents sufficiently frightened as to what could happen to them if they complain.) I hope the BHSB goes well beyond that process to make-up for the failure of the previous BHSB to act in accordance with the charge of protecting students and make the education process in District 17C safe for all students. I believe they should:
1. Disciplinary action against all perpetrators.
2. Have the Board Chair personally write and release a strong statement to the press, community, parents and children, both current and former, that the current and future district administrators and board members will hold a "no tolerance" policy regarding the actions of adults towards students in this district and that they will insure the safety of all students from the kind of retribution that was executed against these students by the previous administration and board.
3. Require each person who was involved in denying the students due process to make a public apology to harassed students and their parents.
4. Have this report entered into the personnel file of those, both past and present, who were faulted in the report for not doing their job.
5. Recuse those on the board who supported the coach or coaches in this process from further involvement with the conciliation process.
6. Exclude the 16 citizens who spoke at the October 16th Joe Paterno esk type board meeting if they ever try to become a school board member since they lacked any regard for the victims and were part of a very organized public retribution of 59 students and citizens against the victims, sanctioned by the current BHSB.
7. Hold a special executive board meeting to allow any parent or child who has found themselves in this or any other situation over the last five years with the district around bullying or harassment to fully present their case once and for all. Many were afraid to come forward because of their experience with retribution and they might still not but they should be offered the opportunity. There's no statute of limitations on the long-term pain that these kinds of actions can cause in life if there's no way to heal.
8. Offer to pay for therapy for those students caught in this action.
I hope the BHSB doesn't continue to drag their feet or hide behind faulty interpretations of BHSD policy to change the culture of denial among administrators in the district before we lose another Dorothy Shull.
The residue from the old way of doing things needs to be purged from the district for the sake of the students and for the future of our city. "The buck stops with you." - Gordon Clay Contact