As parents, we often find ourselves in situations where the ideas of rules and principles become the focus of family discussions when children’s choices conflict with our expectations.
We tell our children it is important to follow the rules and act accordingly. We say the rules are there for a reason. We connect actions and principles to the concepts of character and integrity. We tell them words matter and actions have consequences. We point to role models, respected leaders and friends. We pray the lessons resonate.
Then we pick up the newspaper to discover words do not always matter and actions do not always render appropriate consequences. Which brings me to two issues of concern.
From Oct. 27 to Jan. 29, The News-Review ran a series of six articles regarding the Roseburg High School volleyball coaches and Superintendent Gerry Washburn. This story, it seems, is not over, and if one pays attention to letters and online comments, it has piqued the interest of a great many people, including me.
Without going into the reported details, it appeared the coaches had been exonerated (News Review, Jan. 13, 2018). The superintendent found the complaints against the coaches were unfounded, and an independent investigation concluded the superintendent was guilty of disregarding the complaint policy and process.
But only 12 days after The News-Review reported this, another article appeared, wherein the superintendent announced he would not recommend renewal of Danielle Haskett’s coaching contract. In spite of investigations dismissing the alleged wrong-doing, and in spite of the findings of the independent investigation that he had violated the process which was “more than adequate” to address the original incident, Mr. Washburn would not recommend the renewal of Haskett’s contract.
The words of administrators, investigators, players and coaches did not matter to Mr. Washburn; he ignored them. He has since ignored the pleas of dozens of district coaches. It seems the words and the actions this incident presented were sacrificed when Mr. Washburn took it upon himself to ignore both.
Mr. Washburn disregarded the words of those appointed to instead ferret out accusations of bullying by making an individual decision based upon what appears to be personal whim. The consequences of this action were immediate and sadly disappointing for coaches, athletes and the public, who failed to understand why a coach could be treated unfairly.
The consequences of his actions have sent a chilling effect throughout the coaching community in Roseburg, and will have a chilling effect on the staff of the district if a new policy is written to address the nebulous concept of “perceived bias” to save the image of the superintendent.
Washburn’s independent decision becomes a red flag for future behavior, and it represents an ethical dilemma for those under the leadership of Mr. Washburn, furthering a lack of trust among the stakeholders in the district.
Not just as parents, but as regular people, we often find ourselves in situations where rules and principles become the focus of discussion as our leaders’ choices conflict with our expectations. In these discussions, we could all do better for our children and their futures.