In Colorado, a elite level gymnastics coach faces charges of molesting two boys he trained in the mid-2000’s. The coach was arrested in Houston, Texas, where he had been working as a coach until the investigation into the Colorado charges led to his firing. (Full story here). According to the report, male gymnast between 12 and 14 were molested while alone with the coach. Pornographic videos were used to lower inhibitions and students were told they were special and his favorite. To assure silence, the coach allegedly threatened to ruin the college scholarship prospects of any students that reported him. The story as reported again shows multiple signs of risk management failure. In particular, allegations that another coach reported concerns over the offender’s behavior with his students leaves the gym in a precarious legal position.
One of the key implementation recommendations we give in developing a risk management plan is the importance of establishing a clear reporting and investigative system. In this case, the reports do not detail what, if any investigation followed the reports from a fellow coach. coach did not personally witness any sexual contact, but told management on several occasions about Barke’s behavior. The coach said the accused would take a “special interest” in certain gymnasts and touched them in a way that was “not necessary” while spotting them or working on training exercises. He also insisted on giving certain students rides home.
That report indicates potential grooming behaviors, including slowly breaking down physical barriers, heaping special attention on certain students, and creating moments of isolation with the student. The observations of a fellow coach should be taken very seriously and a thorough investigation should have occurred. Moreover, consider the standard child protection policies that appear not to be in place. A two adult policy would prohibit one on one time. A transportation policy would prohibit staff transport of players in isolated conditions. In addition, the molestation is alleged to have occurred outside the gym. Extra-organization contact policies should have barred such contact.
Consider the potential outcome if when the report came in from the fellow coach, it was clear that child protection policies were not followed. An investigation could have possibly prevented future abuse or prevented the coach from later working in a similar position in Houston.
At Placek Consulting, we understand that child protection policies are the first line of defense against predatory behavior. Combined with a sound reporting and investigative system, a Placek Consulting risk management plan provides a road map to assure that coaches who display indifference toward child safety are identified and removed from your organization. Let us help you update or implement a child protection plan for your organization.