Transparency needed in GCCC cheer coach probe

The Garden City Telegram

I read with interest your articles about the abrupt resignation of the cheerleading coach at GCCC, and allegations of the college’s years-long apathy in the face of multiple complaints by cheerleaders of sexual harassment.

Title IX, the federal statute mandating equal opportunity in education, requires schools receiving federal aid to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment. Thus, the ultimate question: Did the college respond appropriately to multiple reports of sexual harassment?

The Telegram’s stories provide much relevant information. But they do not allow the public to draw a well-grounded conclusion on the appropriateness of the response, largely because the college has refused to release its investigative reports or answer legitimate questions:

  1. How and why was the coach allowed to stay on until March 2018 following the initial report of harassment in 2015 and several others thereafter?
  2. The coach was previously cheer coach in Hutchinson. Why did he leave that job?
  3. Did the college do a thorough background check before hiring?
  4. What did the three purported investigations find and conclude?
  5. What action, if any, was taken to reprimand the coach before he resigned?
  6. Were the investigator(s) independent of the college and sufficiently experienced in this field, which is relatively new and nuanced?
  7. What, if any, recommendations were made to the college, and were they followed?
  8. If there was evidence of crimes, were referrals made to local or federal prosecutors?
  9. If the allegations were credible, what psychological counseling, compensation or other support was offered to the cheerleaders?

Much greater transparency is needed. The college should release the investigative reports. With proper safeguards, such as redacting names of victims and attorney-client privileged material, these reports can and should be made public. If reports or follow-through are lacking, the college should commission another investigation by a competent, independent investigator.

There is precedent for this: (i) Penn State hired former FBI Director Louie Freed to investigate the university’s response to Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys; (ii) Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton to investigate the football team’s rape and sexual misconduct scandal. These reports were thorough and gave detailed direction to the universities on addressing the scandals and preventing them from recurring. The responsible coaches and administrators were demoted or terminated. Both investigative reports were posted online at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/396512-report-fi nal-071212.html and https://www.baylor.edu/thefacts/doc.php/266597.pdf respectively.

Whatever the fallout from the cheer coach resignation, we can hope this will be a learning opportunity for all college constituents (students, coaches, administrators, trustees and the public) so that students are protected from sexual predation, and complaints handled fairly, to ensure students are heard and coaches protected against trumped up charges.

Very truly yours,

ROBERT Y. LEWIS
Garden City

Bob Lewis is a native of Garden City. As a federal prosecutor and practicing attorney in Los Angeles and New York City for the last 30 years, he has advocated for many crime victims, including sexual abuse victims. He recently returned to Garden City, where he now resides and practices law.

Find more information online here.

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