Washington has only to look south to find one way to help protect
young athletes from predatory coaches who teach.
Oregon's Teaching Standards and Practices Commission, a state agency, uses
its Web site to share with the public all the names of teachers who have
been disciplined and the reasons why, everything from sexual misconduct
to gross neglect of duty.
Oregon parents can easily make more informed choices about whom they let
coach their kids.
The OSPI doesn't post discipline records for the public to view.
Even if the OSPI did all it could, the agency can only attack part of the
Half of public-schools coaches don't teach in the classroom and have no
license to lose, putting them outside OSPI enforcement.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) oversees athletics
in the state's nearly 300 school districts.
But it has no jurisdiction to check the background of coaches and weed
out the unscrupulous few.
"They (coaches) are hired by the local district and we put the
faith in the local district," WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said.
Tim Flannery, assistant director of the National Federation of State High
School Associations (NFHS), said states need to create a clearinghouse
that tracks coaches' qualifications and includes any disciplinary history
for sexual misconduct.
School districts have shown a need for this information for years.
Sharon Howard, an assistant superintendent and lawyer for the Bellevue
School District, called the WIAA in 1994 to see "if there were any
central registry for public school coaches where complaints, such as for
sexual harassment which had been verified, could be filed," according
to Bellevue School District records.
Colbrese said, in response to The Times' series, that his office is willing
to launch a clearinghouse for coach misconduct.
Schools would send the complaints and then could use the database to background
coaches they want to hire.
Another solution, Flannery said, is to train coaches in how to recognize,
avoid and report sexual misconduct.
"The only way we can slow it down is to educate coaches on their
role and responsibility," he said. "Training becomes critical."
So far, the WIAA has not addressed sexual abuse and harassment in the clinics
its member coaches are required to take.
The association tells coaches how to tape ankles, prevent injuries, motivate
athletes, even deal with the media, but not how to keep proper boundaries
with young players.
Flannery said schools and state associations should make it mandatory for
coaches to get this training.
His organization will offer instruction on this topic for the first time
next year, he said.