Ethics Data Online - Articles

"State failing to weed out unfit coaches"
Christine Willmsen and Maureen O'Hagan, Seattle Times staff reporters
Sunday, December 16, 2003

When the Tahoma High School boys basketball coach stepped outside his apartment with a star player on the girls basketball team, he didn't know an investigator for the district was lurking nearby with a video camera.

Randy Hammack, 34, kissed and hugged the senior, then traced "I love you" on her car windshield before she drove off.

The district fired Hammack after the 1994 incident and, as required, notified the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) about his unprofessional conduct. It looked as if Hammack's successful coaching and teaching career were over.

But the OSPI, which licenses teachers and disciplines them for misconduct, took no action against Hammack. Instead, the agency dismissed the complaint without conducting an interview or offering an explanation.

Hammack went on to teach and coach boys basketball at Bothell High School and teach in the Kent School District. Earlier this year, after being questioned by reporters about Hammack's employment, the district fired him for concealing his past on his teaching application.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson offers no explanation for the OSPI's handling of Hammack's case. But research shows that her office's handling of Hammack is not unusual.

In a review of 10 years of OSPI records on sexual-misconduct complaints against teachers who coach, The Seattle Times found that:

• The agency closed cases without conducting a single interview, leaving accused coaches and teachers with valid teaching certificates. Even when the OSPI did make inquiries, it dismissed without explanation 46 cases of sexual misconduct by coaches. These represent 42 percent of all such cases, which makes it difficult to determine whether the agency's actions were well-founded.