The Roseburg Public Schools Board will be reading a change to interscholastic athletics policy at Wednesday’s board meeting, but it is not related to the contentious situation of the Roseburg High School volleyball program.
Instead, the changes will focus on “establishing the right of public charter school students and reiterating the right of homeschooled students to participate in available OSAA-sanctioned activities of their resident school district” according to Human Resources Director Robert Freeman. The proposed changes are a direct result of the passing of Senate Bill 208 in the 2017 Legislature.
A draft of policy changes as a result of an independent investigation into the volleyball program has been circulated among administrators in the district for input, but is not on the agenda for Wednesday. There will be no board meeting during spring break. The following board meeting will be on April 11.
The independent investigation took place after six student-athletes left the team and filed complaints against head coach Danielle Haskett and assistant coach Kari Morrow, alleging bullying.
In a statement released by Roseburg Public Schools Board Chairman Charles Lee on Feb. 17, Lee stated, “We do not have a policy describing in detail our expectations regarding coaching and athletics.”
Athletic Guidelines, which can be found on the Roseburg High School website, were most recently revised by the school board in June 2011 and cover the ethics of coaching and expectations of coaches.
The philosophy of the handbook states that “the coach should develop leadership, foster cooperation and insist upon ethical behavior and good citizenship.”
According to the coach’s code of ethics, a coach should, among other things, serve as a worthy example of behavior and leadership for players; respect the integrity of every player, being fair to each through consideration of individual differences, needs, interests, temperaments and backgrounds; consider most importantly the physical and mental health and well-being of athletes despite the pressure of winning. Students in the athletic program are also expected to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner.
The athletic guidelines state that the athletic director will complete an evaluation to determine the performance of each head coach and are to be concluded near the end of each sports season. The assistant coach is reviewed by the head coach ultimately approved of by the athletic director.
Coaches will receive a copy of the evaluation for their own records. The performance of each coach shall be determined to be either excellent, satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
Former school administrator and professor of school law, Tim Keeley, conducted an independent investigation into the district’s policy and procedures after six student-athletes left the varsity volleyball team and alleged the coach and assistant coach had bullied them. In addition to the athletic guidelines, he also looked at five other district policies — related to complaints, bullying and athletics — the co-curricular code of conduct, and the Bruce Brown proactive coaching method.
Keeley recommended an adjustment of the complaint procedure.
“When the superintendent or designee concludes that there is potential perception by either the complaining party or the accused party of a bias or conflict of interest by building or program administrative staff in the situation that it the subject of the complaint, then the superintendent may appoint an independent investigator (who is not an employee of the district) to complete the investigation,” Keeley suggested as the new policy.
No other policy changes were suggested, although Keeley did note that Superintendent Gerry Washburn violated public complaints policy when he met with parents prior to the conclusion of an internal investigation.
Keeley also noted that because of the coaching philosophy the student-athletes believed they were not allowed to communicate with their parents about issues on the team and that “the District should not be restricting the ability of minor students to share all information with their parents/guardians, but parents/guardians should not necessarily be able to inject their thoughts on all matters with the coaches and athletic director.”
The Oregon School Activities Association has an anti-hazing rule, which was added in September 2017 and defines hazing as “willful conduct directed at a student that is intended to physically or emotionally intimidate, punish, embarrass, humiliate, ridicule or place any student in a disconcerting position for the purpose of initiation, affiliation, inclusion or membership in any team or organization.” Administrators, coaches and directors must take an active role in the prevention of all forms of hazing.
The full report prepared by Keeley related to the volleyball program; correspondence from Keeley to the team, coaches, volunteers, members and parents; documents and photos used in the investigation; documents and photos gathered by Keeley were requested by attorney Leta Gorman who represents the six student-athletes who left the team.
Gorman submitted her records request to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 5 after not receiving a reply from the school district. As of Monday, Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Podlesnik had not yet received the records requested from the Hungerford Law Firm, which is representing the school district.
“It continues to be a disappointment that the district and school refuse to release the entire report and investigation to the students, families, and community,” Gorman said in a statement Monday.
The News-Review also requested documents from the school and when an inquiry was sent to Nancy Hungerford, the lead attorney, why no documents had been received, she replied, “Given the fact that the District Attorney’s office is reviewing this matter, I will have no comment until the opinion from the DA’s office is released.”
Gorman pleaded for the release of those records in her request to the district attorney, writing, “Because the records are not exempt under any of the claimed exemptions, we urge you to immediately order the Douglas County School District to produce and disclose the requested records.”
She also claimed that despite the use of public funds to pay the Hungerford Law Firm and Keeley for their services and the report, the district never received a copy of that report or materials used to prepare the report. Lee confirmed that he had only seen the summary report prepared by the Hungerford Law Firm and not the full report.
Following an executive session on Dec. 13 where Keeley reported his finding of the investigation, Lee released a statement in which he said changes are expected to policy as a result of the investigation.
“This evidence demonstrated that, even if it were to be believed that the district never saw the report it commissioned and paid for, the district used the report by relying on it to make changes to district policies,” Gorman writes.
The position of head volleyball coach has not yet been posted on the Roseburg Public School’s website, despite a Jan. 25 press release by the superintendent that he recommended Haskett not be offered the position for the 2018-2019 school year.
According to Freeman, Athletic Director Russ Bolin would initiate the posting by submitting a request to the district office, and the district office would then post the position.
When asked whether Haskett could reapply for the position, Freeman responded, “Roseburg does not prohibit anyone from applying for posted positions.”
After applicants go through a screening process the athletic director would recommend a person and if that person meets all the reference and background checks, the person is typically offered the position.
The district is not waiting for any additional information before posting the position.