The athletic director and junior varsity football coach at Damascus (Md.) High School have been placed on administrative leave following an alleged locker room assault on several junior varsity players last October, the school announced Tuesday.
As reported by The Baltimore Sun, superintendent Jack R. Smith said in a community letter that JV coaches arrived late to their jobs and did not ensure other adults would supervise the locker room in their absence, according to findings of an internal school system investigation. During that unmonitored time, authorities have said, four players were sexually assaulted with a broomstick in attacks that led to charges of rape, attempted rape or both against six of their teammates. The victims and suspects were 14 or 15 years old at the time of the alleged attacks.
The letter also said the football program would be under probationary review by the school system athletics unit next season in an effort to bring heightened monitoring and make sure local and state rules are followed.
Athletic director Joseph Doody and junior varsity football coach Vincent Colbert will not be retained in these or other positions in the Damascus school system. Doody also taught at the high school, and Colbert held coaching positions in other sports.
The alleged attacks came to light the evening of Oct. 31, when one of the victims told his father what happened to him and the father called Colbert, the JV coach, according to statements the father and Colbert gave to police. Colbert spoke with the varsity head coach, who passed information about the alleged assault to the athletic director and to school principal Casey Crouse, according to a group text message seen by The Washington Post. The group text message indicated that a player had been pinned and his pants forced down while another player tried to poke him with a broom handle. That message named a victim and two alleged assailants.
According to the Sun, the Post reported in March that school officials waited more than 12 hours to tell police about credible allegations that at least one player had been sexually assaulted with a broomstick. During those hours, Crouse initiated an in-house investigation at the school that led to victims and suspects being pulled from their classes to give statements to administrators before police detectives were brought in.
Smith said in his letter that while “in hindsight, it is of course possible to second guess complex and evolving circumstances,” the school system’s investigation of when its administrators learned of events and brought in police sexual assault investigators has “concluded that there is insufficient evidence at this time to suggest undue delay in reporting the incident.”
Smith’s letter said that “looking at the events of that evening as reported by the media, some may criticize this finding and argue that school staff should have reported more quickly, even if some details remained unsettled and unclear.”
Two weeks ago, Damascus resident Christi Baisden started an online petition at change.org to support football coaches keeping their jobs. “This coaching staff has been positively impacting our players and community for over 30 years,” the petition stated. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,800 people had signed on, according to the Sun.