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Archive for December, 2015

Note to students and parents: The most effective way to report harassment is to contact law enforcement immediately. According to S.E.S.A.M.E., before reporting “it is best to have the emotional support of at least one individual and/or an experienced counseling entity such as the local rape crisis center, community mental health service, or child advocacy center.” Once you have the support you need, the organization urges that you “[d]o not hesitate to report your sexual abuse directly to your local, county, and state law enforcement agencies, district or state attorney’s office, and any child protection agency. All of these have trained sexual abuse investigators and most have supportive victim advocates. Schools have neither.”

I’ll add one more thing. In ten years, when the child is an adult, what matters to her will be whether anyone tried to stop it. If you’re an adult who witnesses misconduct, tell someone in a position of authority, and don’t stop there, because it likely won’t be enough. Knowing how hard it is and how it may affect your own life and career, and with the deepest compassion, please ask yourself if you really can’t try a little harder.

And if it *is* years later and you didn’t try, no matter how much time has passed, become an advocate *now*.

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My name is Tasha. My high school, Wind River, was among the string of small-town schools you fled without consequence after things became too complicated for you. I’m writing because I wanted you to know that you had an impact on my life, the result of which is: I can never not know—as long as you continue to coach and teach—that school administrators have once again endangered students by hiring you. My aim is not to threaten you (I know I am no threat) or to expose what was never a secret (your abuse and harassment of young girls). I’m asking you to stop. Stop coaching. Stop teaching. Allow girls to grow up undamaged by you.

I don’t know if you remember what it’s like to be vulnerable, or if you’ve ever experienced a time when someone used his authority to exploit you—a time when a person in power failed to acknowledge your humanity. It’s more than helplessness. You never forget this feeling.

As a coach, you were verbally abusive, of course. You were horrible. You were a bully. You were cruel. You were more than that.

Here’s what I’ve found out about you since you left us. Like all bad teachers, you bounce from school to school, shipping off to a new one as soon as you wear out your welcome, which could take six years, two years. You choose rural schools, small-town schools, places where sports are everything, where adults will overlook your arm around a girl’s waist, the palm of your hand pressed flat against her stomach. My stomach. You held me against you, pressed me against you, while I stood on the sidelines during a drill, in full view of everyone. You held me for a long time. Your hand covered my entire abdomen. I couldn’t move. You did other things—things I saw or heard about, and finally the thing that forced you to leave. I heard, at your last school, in Texas, you brought girls to your home (again), and like before, you used the presence of your daughter to make them feel safe. I heard you groped your students in plain sight. I heard that after a number of “strikes,” you were one step away from being fired. I heard you were going to resign, and the school was going to let you. You were up to your old tricks—manipulating parents, awarding favor (and game-time) to students who didn’t resist your harassment and bullying those who did.

Even if you retire someday, in all probability you will walk away with your dignity intact, a handful of coaching awards, some bad feelings toward you, and no real consequences for anything you did. It’s likely that your new school—also in Texas (but it might as well be Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska)—already knows about you. You’ve never needed to hide. That’s why I’m writing you directly. I’m asking you to stop, since no one will stop you. Protect those girls from yourself, as you would, I hope, protect your own daughter from someone like you.

You prey on the weakness of others, yet you’re never forced to consider the limits of your own power. You’re forced to resign, you move on, it’s no great hardship. You do not permit others to make you feel helpless—certainly not girls, certainly not school administrators, who, bound by their own limitations, won’t fire you.

I imagine many of your former students will never forget you. Maybe this satisfies you—a sign of your control, still alive and well in the world. It’s true, we remember you. But I doubt we remember you the way you’d like. We saw you. We see you.

Ultimately it’s not your power we remember—it’s your awful, consuming weakness, which is never more clear than when you terrorize those you consider unimportant, unable to fight back, mute, and helpless. Children. Girls.

Your students deserve better, and you—whatever you deserve—are obligated to stay away from them.

Tasha LeClair

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UPDATE: I never sent this letter, though I did send the following email to three school administrators (principal, superintendent, and president of the board) on 12/17/15, providing my name, information, and a link to this post:


Hello,

I’m a former student of ___’s. I’m writing because I believe he is a threat to your students. Over fifteen years ago, ___ taught and coached girls basketball at ___ in Wyoming, and while he was there he behaved inappropriately toward several female athletes, including myself.

I found out a few years ago that he was at [other school], and was horrified to learn that all this time he’s been coaching and teaching female students. My husband encouraged me to get in touch with the school, and I did. […] The former principal was aware for some time that ___ had been repeatedly crossing the line with female athletes (inappropriate touching, taking students to his house), and was trying to build evidence against him. I’m disturbed to see that she and the administration were unsuccessful, and that he’s already moved on to a new school.

I posted a letter describing a few instances of his misconduct here: https://prairietown.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/letter-to-my-high-school-basketball-coach/ . After I posted it, my friends–many of whom are educators, and some of whom are former students of his–urged me to get in touch with you.

I can’t substantiate my claims of harassment/abuse, but knowing even a little of his recent past at [other school], I feel obligated to alert you. I hope that you monitor ___ closely and don’t overlook even seemingly innocent physical contact or closeness with students. I’ve found S.E.S.A.M.E. to be a great resource on recognizing and reporting abuse in schools: http://www.sesamenet.org/survivors/reporting .

I don’t have much to add beyond what I’ve said in my blog post, but you’re free to contact me if you think it’d be helpful. Thank you for all you do in helping kids learn and grow in a safe environment. Most teachers and coaches I know truly care about their students, and I’m sure you’ll do everything you can to surround your students with those people.

Thanks again,

Tasha

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As of 3/29/16,  ___ is still coaching high school girls basketball, and also coaches and teaches P.E. at the elementary school, according to the school website. The administrators did not contact me.
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