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Records released by Roseburg Public Schools show volleyball issue more than just homecoming

Editor’s note: This article contains strong language that may be offensive to some readers.

Roseburg Public Schools released the full report authored by independent investigator Tim Keeley regarding the policy and procedures at the school district following an incident on the volleyball team last September.

The released report includes details such as a reprimand written earlier in the season, the results of the independent investigation, additional topics that may require the district’s attention and the initial reactions of the administration, parents and students.

The report also contains interviews with parents, players who remained on the team, players who resigned from the team, as well as the documents used and Keeley’s findings and interpretations.

Six female student-athletes sent the school district a notice explaining their intent to file a tort claim against the district, alleging they were bullied by head coach Danielle Haskett and assistant coach Kari Morrow. No civil suit has been filed as of Friday.

Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Podlesnik reviewed Keeley’s report and determined a redacted version must be disclosed.

Leta Gorman, the attorney for the six student-athletes, said Monday she will be pursuing the redacted information and “based upon that we’ll make a decision as to whether or not they go forward (with the lawsuit).”

Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn said there have been some costs associated with the pending litigation, but the majority will be covered under the district's insurance policy.

Human Resources Director Robert Freeman said the district is more concerned with the emotional cost.

“The district recognizes the emotional impact of this incident and the district’s number one goal is to look out for the best interest of all student-athletes and ensure that Roseburg student-athletes have a really positive, competitive and academic experience,” he said.

Keeley, a former school administrator and professor of school law, was hired by the Hungerford law firm, which is representing the school district, to review and make recommendations for improvements or changes to district policy and procedure.

Name calling

“A reasonable review of the coaches’ actions might indicate violations of the code of ethics by the varsity coaches,” Keeley wrote.

The code of ethics established and adopted by the Oregon High School Coaches Association states a coach should integrate a personal philosophy of athletics with the philosophy of education, serve as a worthy example, respect the integrity of every player, insist upon the highest possible standards of conduct and scholarship, and consider the mental and physical health and well-being of athletes despite the pressure of winning.

Keeley said Morrow, who also taught at the high school, received a written reprimand for the use of profanity and was directed to cease the use of profanity in front of players.

All girls who were interviewed, those who left and those who stayed on the team, agreed that profanity was used by the coaches. Most notable was a chant lead by Morrow that would end with “let’s go kick some motherfucking ass.”

Several players —on both sides— said they heard Haskett say, “You look like shit” to one of the players before a match. Students also heard Haskett refer to a girl with acne as “disgusting” and tell a player that she was “a waste of my time” and that they “play like shit.”

However, one of the girls who remained on the team said Haskett calling acne disgusting was not meant in a rude way.

Contentious meeting

The foul language and name-calling occurred early in the season, but the coaches did not think this was one of the reasons the girls quit the team.

Instead, the coaches repeatedly blamed a conflict with the homecoming dance on Saturday. The homecoming dance and a Bend volleyball tournament were scheduled on the same day and four girls on the volleyball team had been selected to homecoming court.

Rumors spread that some of the girls would rather go to homecoming than attend the tournament and on Sept. 27 the team —including the coaches— gathered into one of the classrooms and three options were written on the board; 1. attend Friday's homecoming football game and coronation and drive to Bend later in the evening, 2. quit the program, 3. travel with the team.

Haskett wrote the girls’ jersey numbers on the board and they were asked to make a decision immediately and in front of their teammates. That afternoon five girls left the team and the following morning another student-athlete turned in her jersey and resigned.

Emotions during this meeting ran high and coaches told the student-athletes they were not able to discuss the issue with their parents, according to both the coaches and students. Some of the girls brought up prior concerns with the team and tears were shed.

In the days following the meeting Haskett and Morrow wrote emails to Roseburg High School’s Athletic Director Russ Bolin and Principal Jill Weber explaining what happened.

“Someone asked if they could speak with parents before deciding,” Haskett wrote. “I replied that we need to resolve this tonight, we have a big match tomorrow, I’m not going to let this drama continue on and they’ve been having conversations with parents about the topic already.”

The girls argued they were explicitly told not to discuss issues on the volleyball team and to say “I have trust in my coaches” when asked any questions by friends or family members.

One of the girls was able to find a phone and was mid-conversation with her parent when the coaches returned to the room, according to statements from students and coach Haskett.

“We never told them they could not go to the dance, we told them to be committed at the tournament and when it was over they could go home to hopefully make the dance,” Morrow wrote in her account of events. “We told them a decision had to be made today, right now. One player expressed for others that it was too much pressure to decide right now.”

Morrow admitted she said, “You need to grow a pair and make a decision,” and acknowledged it was not the best choice of words.

“I wanted them to understand that wish washy, half committed, have your cake and it too decisions were unacceptable,” Morrow wrote. “Again, should have chosen something else to say in that situation, I am fully accepting my mistake on that one.”

Haskett finished her email by writing, “It breaks my heart this has happened and I’m disappointed in their lack of commitment to their teammates. Before we started practice, after the meeting, the team thanked and hugged me for helping them through this challenging situation. I’ve asked them not to engage in any drama today and to not speak poorly about the girls that have quit. I reminded them that the girls have been friends off the court for many years and they shouldn’t throw that away.”

Keeley concluded the head coach should not have made team members pick from the three options at that meeting.

He wrote, “In my opinion, the head coach’s decision to include an option at the September 27th team meeting for young women to quit the team was a deleterious option that defied what the Roseburg community wants its athletic program to teach young athletes. In addition, once the ‘deed was done’ that Wednesday afternoon, it could have conceivably been reversed the next day by the principal and athletic director returning the players who had resigned back on the team.”

He also wrote that Haskett should have discussed the matter with the athletic director to come up with a more thoughtful way to remind the players of their commitment. Had she waited until the next morning, Keeley said it is possible the six girls would not have resigned.

Resignations

Several of the girls wrote in their statements they felt bullied into resigning by the coach.

Because Haskett gave the option of resigning Keeley believes she “may have lost perspective on looking out for the long-term best interest of all 14 of her players.”

“It may be in the district’s interest to consider the status of the future employment of the head volleyball coach and determine if she should be offered the opportunity to resign from the program,” Keely wrote.

Washburn urged the board not to renew Haskett’s contract on Jan. 25 — four months after the meeting. Representatives from the district said they could not comment on whether Haskett was given the chance to resign.

The statement released by the school district following the decision to not renew Haskett’s contract read, “While Ms. Haskett has the support of the principal and the athletic director, it is the judgment of the superintendent that new leadership is needed for the volleyball program.”

Roseburg hired Doug Magee in May to take over as head coach of the varsity volleyball program.

Initial reaction

Washburn’s initial statement, on Oct. 4, after the internal investigation completed by Weber and Bolin, said he determined “the events as presented do not warrant termination or suspension of the coach.” He also wrote no bullying occurred.

In Bolin’s summary of the volleyball season and his conclusion of the internal investigation, he said there were chemistry issues from the beginning, but that there was “absolutely no evidence” coaches were verbally abusive, yelled, screamed, degraded players, tore them down and used foul language.

In the margins of this portion of Bolin’s statement, Keeley wrote, “Really — the coaches were reprimanded.”

Bolin concluded, “I find zero cause to dismiss any of our volleyball coaches.”

Recommendations

Keeley made five recommendations as a result of his investigation: that the district consider adjusting its complaint procedure in an attempt to assure an objective investigation of all complaints, administrators contact parents of students affected within 24 hours, the superintendent delay involvement in future disputes, consider a progression of communication, and that the school district needs to be careful to communicate fully the tenets of the Bruce Brown Coaching philosophy — in which student-athletes are discouraged from saying anything negative about the program to people outside the program.

The players who resigned, and their parents, went to the superintendent to state that school administrators — notably Bolin and Weber — were personal friends of the coaches and could not be objective. In hearing those concerns, as well as the verbal complaints from the parents, the superintendent did not follow the district’s guidelines of the complaint procedure, Keeley said.

“Given that the athletic director may have indicated that the head coach would not be dismissed ... perhaps the AD should not have been allowed to continue to participate in the investigation,” Keeley wrote.

Since the independent investigation concluded, representatives from the school district said they have formed a committee and hired an attorney to work with administrators in August to get on the same page regarding the complaint process.

Freeman, the HR director, said his goal is to present new complaint procedures to the school board during the first meeting in September. Washburn said those are expected to be implemented before winter break.

There will be three separate complaint procedures, as required by Oregon law — sexual harassment, student complaints and parental complaints.

Parents

Several parents of girls who remained on the team submitted letters in support of Haskett, Morrow and the volleyball team in the days following the contentious meeting.

“I am saddened that the six girls chose to leave our program. With that said, I am also disappointed with their decision,” Mandie Pritchard, a parent and junior varsity volleyball coach wrote. “As a parent and coach, I am fully supportive of my varsity coaches. Danielle has the biggest heart and is an amazing coach.”

Gwen Bartlett, who is a teacher at RHS, the track coach, and a parent of a player who remained on the team, submitted an email in which she wrote, “In my opinion, the six girls who left the team (as well as the parents) could use more strength when it comes to persevering through adversity, learning how to communicate through proper channels and maturing.

“Through my observations and my daughter’s comments, Danielle epitomizes a coaching personality that is direct, slightly stern with high expectations of her athletes coupled with a sense of humor, ability to support and offer kindness.”

In contrast, Kelli Novak, whose daughters left the volleyball team, wrote, “All of us parents told our girls quitting is never the best option and we prefer that you continue to play ... Then Wednesday, September 27, happened. After that I knew for sure that all I had been doing was encouraging my girls to stay in an abusive relationship. Nothing that happened that day was proper or professional.”

More than homecoming

“A newspaper article printed that six girls quit because of a homecoming activity issue,” Novak wrote. “Now our families are suffering the backlash from that and have made our girls out to look like they would just abandon their team for a dance.”

The News-Review published the article on Sept. 29 based on the information that was made available by RHS administrators and coaches.

Keeley did not interview the coaches due to Oregon Education Association concerns, but wrote: “I strongly speculate that (the coaches) believe that the young women were more concerned about homecoming than about volleyball.”

According to several of the players on the team — both those who remained and left — there had been tension prior to the Sept. 27 meeting.

“Our discussion was not regarding homecoming in any way, but about issues that have been circulating in the gym all season long, with not only players, but coaches,” one of the players who left wrote. “Danielle Haskett has broken down the athlete I used to be and I now doubt myself in numerous ways.”

There was an incident at a tournament before the meeting regarding refereeing which the girls had worked out amongst themselves. Additionally, the emotions at practice had started to rise with coaches yelling and girls crying.

“I decided to turn my jersey in and I chose ‘option 2’ because I felt like it was my only chance to free myself from the negativity and anxiety I felt during the season,” another player wrote. “I’m also doing this for the girls who are younger than me, so they don’t have to lose sight of their passion of volleyball and feel safe in their environment. Also, I’m doing this for the girls who witnessed the same experience as us five girls who were too afraid to stand up, or did, but nothing was done about their situation.”

Addendum

In an addendum to the report entitled “Additional matters perhaps requiring district administration attention” Keeley brought up 10 other matters — eight of which were not exempt.

In this document he stated concerns about track coach Bartlett, who is a parent of a girl who remained on the team, writing a statement in which she said the district needed to support its coaches and discount the concerns of players and their guardians.

“The district might want to consider having the HR director meet with the employee and ask her if she believes that student athletes have the right to due process and if parents have the right to protect their student athletes,” Keeley wrote.

The district could not comment whether this meeting took place.

But in an email Bartlett sent to Bolin and Weber on Oct. 3, she said, “I am left questioning whether or not I will be the potential target of an organized group of parents whose goal is to rid the system of my presence solely because they believe (or have perceived and internalized) that their child isn’t receiving fair treatment and equity.”

She also wrote that the six girls who left “created drama and a toxic environment for others,” which damaged friendships and caused the seniors who remained on the team to be harassed by those who left the team and their acquaintances.

Keeley recommended the district may want to “determine if (Bartlett) meets the ethical standards to coach Roseburg students.”

Keeley also warned the district to be prepared for the possibility of additional complaints from the six student-athletes regarding perceived intimidation and cyberbullying that occurred by relatives of the AD and district staff members, including teachers and other coaches, as well as relatives of the head volleyball coach.

He also asked if athletics are over-emphasized at RHS, noting the athletic director’s office is next to the principal’s office.

“Perhaps in an effort to offer some educational balance, some academic achievement displays can (also) be celebrated more obviously in the high school administration complex,” he wrote.


Environment
Too soon to tell how changes to Endangered Species Act will affect Douglas County

The Trump administration published its proposal to make changes to the Endangered Species Act, a law that was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973, but it’s too soon to tell how the changes will impact places like Douglas County.

The administration announced the changes in a press release last week and the proposed rules were published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, which will be followed by a 60-day comment period that ends on Sept. 24.

Last Thursday, the Association of O&C Counties came out in support of the proposed changes, while some wildlife advocates said the changes put already struggling animals at risk of going extinct.

One of the more contentious changes adds the phrase “as a whole” to the definition of destruction or adverse modification.

As it’s currently written, destruction or adverse modification is defined as a direct or indirect alteration that “appreciably diminishes” the value of critical habitat for the conservation of a listed species.

Nick Cady with the environmental group Cascadia Wildlands said that by adding “as a whole,” companies that want to drill, mine or log will more easily get the green light from federal agencies in critical habitat areas.

Because animal habitats are often large swaths of land, one logging operation, for example, wouldn’t have an impact on the “whole” of the species’ critical habitat.

“Even a timber sale that’s 10,000 acres is not going to have impacts across 3.5 million acres of a species range,” he said. “It essentially is going to functionally eliminate that consultation on critical habitat.”

In a press release, Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said if the changes aren’t applied to past listings and critical habitat designations then they won’t do much good in Western Oregon.

Freeman didn’t respond to multiple calls and emails seeking additional comment.

Association of O&C Counties Executive Director Rocky McVay also could not be reached for comment.

Oregon’s endangered species— which are defined as those in danger of going extinct across most of their range — include the short-tailed albatross, Fender’s blue butterfly, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Borax Lake chub, tidewater goby, sockeye salmon, leatherback sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, lost river sucker, shortnose sucker, Tadpole shrimp and the gray wolf.

However, its often the threatened species— ones that are in danger of becoming endangered in the “foreseeable future” across most of their range— that are frequently brought up. That list includes the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl.

The term “foreseeable future” is also one that would be defined by the changes as extending “only so far into the future as the Services can reasonably determine that the conditions potentially posing a danger of extinction in the foreseeable future are probable.”

Cady said Cascadia Wildlands was on a conference call with the Fish and Wildlife Service as it explained the proposed changes, saying they were an effort to “clarify” and “streamline” the act.

“Usually when you hear those two words from a government agency it means a massive overhaul,” Cady said.

While resource industries have long criticized the act as being bad for business, Cady said global factors are more to blame.

“The ESA has been a classic and traditional scapegoat of problems for industries that exploit natural resources in the United States,” Cady said.

He said the process is far from over.

“None of this is set in stone,” Cady said, “And I think certainly there will be litigation.”


MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review/  

Tristan Williams, 8, of Kalama, Washington competes in the Joe Woody Armwrestling Invitational at the Myrtle Creek Summer Festival on Saturday.


MSullivan / Mike Sullivan/News-Review file photo  

Danielle Haskett looks on during a Roseburg School Board meeting in February.


Wildfires
Weather and fuel conditions allow South Umpqua Complex Fire to grow

Gusting winds, low humidity and bone-dry terrain made fighting the South Umpqua Complex Fire difficult on Saturday.

Due to the conditions, both the Columbus Fire and Miles Fire — the fire affecting Douglas County residents — saw an increase in fire activity. Large plumes of smoke became visible from long distances and deep layers of fuel on the ground helped spark the fire’s intensity.

In all, the complex has burned nearly 11,000 acres of land southeast of Tiller. It is still 14 percent contained.

The Miles Fire pushed east, aided by wind-blown embers that sparked multiple spot fires on Bureau of Land Management land and private land west of Buckhorn Mountain in Jackson County.

The Columbus Fire ran south in the Black Canyon drainage. It moved in that direction partially because embers began igniting spot fires up to a half mile away from the main fire’s southern edge and because firefighters were forced to pull back to safer ground located north of the blaze until the fire’s behavior moderated.

The Showshoe Fire remained quiet, staying within its control lines as crews continued to mop up the area.

Representatives from the South Umpqua Complex Fire and the Sugar Pine Fire, which has scorched more than 3,000 acres just south of the complex, met Saturday to discuss coordinating efforts to control the fires.

Together, more than 2,000 people are fighting the two fires.

Both fires were started during a lightning storm on July 15.


Roseburg
Cornhole Tournament to raise money for Meals on Wheels

Backside Brewing Co. in Roseburg will host a Cornhole Tournament on Aug. 18 to raise money for the Meals on Wheels program.

A cornhole tournament is essentially a beanbag tossing competition. The event will also feature barbecue food, auctions and line dancing.

Team registration begins at 4 p.m., with the tournament kicking off at 5 p.m. Teams of two pay $100 to compete, with a $5 cover for spectators.

The first-place team will take home $1,000, the second-place team will take home $500 and the third-place team gets a swag bag.

To ensure your team gets included, call 541-671-2552 to register. There’s a 30 team limit.

Advertising spots are available on the cornhole boards for $100. Send a logo or business card and a check made out to The Friendly Kitchen to 1771 W. Harvard Ave., Roseburg, OR 97471.

Volunteers are needed too. To help, contact Helen Hanson at helenhanson@gmail.com or call 541-671-0833.

Meals on Wheels provides hot meals to housebound seniors and disabled people each weekday, helping them remain independent and keeping them from going hungry. The Friendly Kitchen started as an independent organization in 1972 at Faith Lutheran Church. It later joined the Meals on Wheels program, and two years ago, it moved to the First United Methodist Church on Harvard Avenue.

Today, the local program boasts 85 volunteers and delivers more than 74,000 meals each year.