Experts have estimated that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday and that as high as 60% of those abused are abused by people the family trusts and only 5% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger. This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are children who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.
Teachers and coaches have to be carefully vetted by their employers. As USRowing states in its guidelines for crew clubs: “The minimum components to the athlete safety program include addressing the six prohibited conducts: bullying, hazing, harassment (including sexual harassment), emotional misconduct, physical misconduct and sexual misconduct (including child sexual abuse); criminal background checks; education and training; reporting; and enforcement.”
criminal laws often inadequate
In Maryland, the perpetrator of sexual misconduct against a minor can only be criminally prosecuted if that person is a full-time teacher or coach at the school that the minor attends. While it is illegal for a full time coach or teacher to have sex with his or her underage athletes/students, the law does not cover part-time coaches or teachers who become romantically involved with someone 16-and-older.
Md. family sues MCPS for $3 million, alleges it harbored 'reckless' teacher
Below is a television news report covering some aspects of one case involving a teacher found guilty of sexual misconduct with a high school student.
Civil Lawsuit: Coach sleeps with teenage athlete, but dodges criminal charges
A news report from WJLA-TV describes a different case:
BETHESDA, Md. — A teenage girl and her mother are suing the Walter Johnson High School Crew Club, its board of directors, and a former part time strength and conditioning coach.
The four-count civil lawsuit, filed this month in Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual assault, assault and battery, and negligent hiring, training and supervision.
The alleged victim first came into contact with the coach, whom ABC7 News is not naming, in the fall of 2014. At the time, she was a 15-year-old sophomore member of the highly regarded Bethesda-based crew club. By February, the two began exchanging text messages. During the next six months, they traded more than 3,000 texts, the suit claims.
In September 2015, the coach drove from his home in Burke, Virginia, to Montgomery County to meet the girl. The two allegedly went to the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville where they engaged in sexual intercourse. Two days later, the girl attempted suicide by taking a copious amount of Lithium and Lexapro pills.
While being treated at a local hospital, the girl and her coach swapped more text messages. This is part of one of those alleged conversations:
Part Time Coach: "I drove all the way to Rockville, and I would do it again and again, if for no other reason than to bring you ice cream."
Student Athlete: "But the reason was to have sex with me. And that's all any guy wants to do is have sex."
Part Time Coach: "We were drunk and high. Lol. And horny."
Student Athlete: "Literally I'm almost sure the only reason u [sic] talk to me is because I'm 'hot'".
Part Time Coach: "Right, because there aren't ANY other hot females around for me to talk to that don't carry jail sentences if the conversation was to get into the wrong hands."
"This is not somebody who was casually mentioning --- 'hey by the way don't forget to lift weights' --- this was well beyond what any coach should be doing," said attorney Norm Schneider, who represents the alleged victim.
Despite strong evidence of an illegal sexual escapade, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office says it cannot press criminal charges against the accused coach. But why?
Well, in Maryland, while it is illegal for a full time coach or teacher to have sex with his or her underage athletes/students, the law does not cover part-time coaches or teachers who become romantically involved with someone 16-and-older.
"It's absolutely a loophole because if he were a full time employee of Montgomery County Public Schools, or a private school, he would be liable for 4th Degree Sexual Assault," Schneider added.
In 2014, Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) attempted to correct the seemingly daft law, but hit snags along the way. Ultimately, nothing ever changed.
"I don't know what the political problem is. I would think it would be very easy to fix. You would write a law that says --- 'part time teachers and coaches are just as liable for statutory sexual assaults as full time teachers,'" Schneider mentioned.
Today Schneider's teenage client, now 17, is residing at a mental health center where she receives around-the-clock care. Her crew career, over. Her high school diploma now in question.
"She obviously was devastated by the fact this guy didn't care about her, that it wasn't a real relationship, that it was simply a power relationship by him to have sex with her," Schneider added. "She's going to take a long time to recover."
According to the lawsuit, crew club leaders also failed to run a proper background check when it hired the coach in November 2012. Had the club properly vetted him, it would have uncovered a 2009 conviction for felony charges embezzlement and forgery.
Court records additionally show in April 2015, the coach was convicted for distribution of marijuana in Fairfax County. Then in September 2015, he was convicted for a felony charge of possession of marijuana.
"He had a very sketchy record. He was convicted of felonies. He's not allowed to vote. He shouldn't be a coach. He shouldn't be around young people," Schneider added.
Speaking via an attorney, the Walter Johnson High School Crew Club, which operates independent of Montgomery County Public Schools, told ABC7 News it has parted ways with the coach in question. It offered no additional comment.
ABC7 News later spoke on the phone with the 30-year-old coach. While he acknowledged texting female athletes outside normally scheduled practices, he claimed to be perplexed by the allegations, calling them "bogus". The coach went on to describe himself as a married father with three children, all under the age of 12.
The civil lawsuit claims $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.