Ethics Data Online - Articles

"Misconduct registry, more training needed for Washington coaches"
Christine Willmsen and Maureen O'Hagan, Seattle Times staff reporters
Sunday, December 16, 2003

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 problem.

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.