With the benefit of hindsight, the Baker School District’s decision to retain Warren Wilson as a coach in 2015, after a district investigation found that Wilson’s conduct with girls JV basketball players in 2014 was inappropriate, can be deemed a mistake.
That’s because other complaints, made by parents of players on the 2018 BHS volleyball team, prompted Superintendent Mark Witty to fire Wilson from future coaching jobs on Feb. 25 of this year. The Baker School Board upheld Witty’s decision on March 19.
But the issue isn’t limited to whether district officials erred in expecting that sanctions against Wilson in 2015 — issuing him a written directive and mandating that he complete Safe Schools training, which coaches are required to finish in any case — would correct the coach’s behavior.
Witty and other district officials also need to consider, if they receive similar complaints in the future, whether the findings in the 2015 investigation — which Wilson didn’t contest either then or in 2017 when the Oregon Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) suspended Wilson’s teaching license for 60 days based on the district’s investigation — justified Witty terminating Wilson in 2015 rather than giving him a second chance.
Those findings included ample reason for the district to dismiss Wilson as a coach in 2015.
Although the district’s 2015 investigation described Wilson’s actions as “misguided attempts to positively reinforce and/or to build positive relationships with athletes,” the report also concluded that the coach’s conduct could be deemed harassment under the district’s policies.
Moreover, as the TSPC concluded in its 2017 order and as the district could have confirmed in 2015, Wilson’s conduct also constitutes “gross neglect of duty in violation” of Oregon laws dealing with “professional judgment” and “honoring appropriate adult boundaries with students.”
School coaches have an immense responsibility as they work with children. Coaches should be expected to adhere to the highest standards in their conduct with student-athletes. That’s why district policies and state laws regarding coaches’ conduct exist.
In 2017 the TSPC concluded that Wilson’s conduct, as outlined in the district’s 2015 investigation, warranted a 60-day suspension of his privilege to teach in a classroom.
Yet district officials, though they had the same information two years earlier, decided not to infringe on Wilson’s coaching privileges.
When school officials verify that a coach has violated district policy and state law, dismissal, not ordering the coach to repeat required training, is the appropriate sanction.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor