Coach must pay the price for the mistakes he made

The outpouring of support for Capital High School basketball coach Doug Galloway Monday night testified to his popularity among students, parents and former players. But in standing behind the Olympia School District’s decision not to renew his contract for the 2012-13 school year, the school board got it right.

Galloway took his team to a summer basketball camp at Western Washington University in late June and during a period when the players were left unsupervised by coaches, a hazing of younger players occurred. Worse, the incident involved unwanted sexual contact, according to both the police report and the district’s own investigation.

The coach’s failure to put an adequate supervision plan in place that would have protected the victims is reason enough not to renew his contract. But this may not have been the first time a hazing incident occurred on Galloway’s watch.

A similar assault on the team’s younger players may have occurred last summer. During its current investigation, one of those involved in the hazing at WWU reported he was similarly abused in an incident last year at a basketball camp in Oregon.

The district and the school board needed to send a strong message, and it did: Hazing of any sort is not OK.

The cycle of abuse between last year’s incident and the current one must not develop into a nudge-nudge, wink-wink interpretation of consent. It must be stamped out quickly, and children must feel free to report misconduct of any kind.

No student reported the Oregon hazing incident, probably out of shame, fear or both.

There is no greater responsibility for high school or university coaches than the educating, nurturing and protecting of children under their charge.

This incident should be the canary in the coal mine for every other coach in every other sport in every other school district in Thurston County.

Galloway’s mistakes apparently began before the school year ended. The district says he failed to submit paperwork required of coaches taking teams to summer camps, despite two reminders by the athletic director. It was assumed the basketball team wasn’t going to a camp this year.

The paperwork would have included a supervision plan. It would have provided details about the trained adults accompanying the students, and how the adults would be supervising the students to ensure their safety and well-being.

On the evening of the hazing, the district discovered that four of the five adult coaches at the camp went to a university-sponsored social event, and the other went to dinner with a friend. During its investigation, the district learned that Galloway’s last-minute supervision plan was to leave two of his players in charge.

The district and the board determined that wasn’t an acceptable effort by the coach, and we agree.

It is not a coincidence that the hazing and alleged forced sexual contact occurred while the players thought the coaches were away, and they were unsupervised.

It is obvious that Galloway is well liked and that he has had a positive impact on many young kids’ lives. Everything that his supporters said on Monday night is probably true. And it could also be true that the school district needs stricter guidelines about effective supervision and clear consequences for its absence.

But what happened in a dorm room at Western Washington University during the last days of June occurred on the coach’s watch, and for that he must be held accountable.