Unsure of how best to handle complaints of harassment and misappropriation of funds lodged against two Brookings-Harbor High School coaches, the school board canceled an executive session this week and has sought legal advice.
"We want everybody to take a deep breath and handle the situation properly," school board chairwoman Carol Slewing said Thursday. "We are taking the complaints seriously and we are not sweeping it under the rug."
A group of eight to 10 parents and three current and former students brought their concerns about two coaches to the school board during its June 19 meeting.
The action was spurred by a coaching contract the board was set to consider and likely approve that night.
Five people emotionally testified about a coach, saying his coaching style included verbally abusing, harassing, intimidating or teasing several student athletes during the last few years. Another parent and a female student accused another coach of not doing anything about it.
One parent accused one of the coaches of raising money under the guise of using it for costs associated with a summer basketball league in which the team did not participate.
Several parents told the board they had shared their concerns with the high school principal and athletic director several times and were told something would be done, but nothing ever happened.
"It looks like it's being ignored; the ball is now in your court," a parent told the school board.
Before more people could share their concerns, the board stopped the discussion, saying board policy dictates the two coaches get a fair hearing - an opportunity to hear the complaints against them and be able to respond.
Board member Jaime Ryan, with Superintendent Brian Hodge's recommendation, suggested the board hold an executive session and invite the coaches and complainants to attend. The meeting was set for Tuesday, June 25, but was cancelled Monday.
Slewing said she and district business manager Don Sweeney, who is the acting superintendent while Hodge is on vacation this week, have sought legal advice from a lawyer with the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA).
"We're looking into getting an outside person to look at the complaints and act as a mediator," Slewing said.
On Friday, Sweeney sent the Curry Coastal Pilot an email, written by an OSBA lawyer at Sweeney's request.
It read, "In the interest of student safety and fairness to both students and employees, the district has developed policies regarding matters concerning this issue. The district is requesting any interested parties to follow district policies by providing written statements of their concerns."
What happens after the district receives such statements is unknown, Slewing said.
"We will wait until Brian (Hodge) gets back next week, work with our OSBA attorney and follow the procedure," she said.
Meanwhile, approval of the contracts for the two coaches have been put on hold.