The Toutle Lake School Board has hired an attorney to further investigate a sexual harassment claim made by a team member of the high school’s boys varsity basketball team against fellow teammates.
The complaint, made in December, already has resulted in a one-game December suspension of four players, and the entire team was required to undergo sensitivity training in January, school officials said.
“We take this very seriously. It was something that needed to be stopped and was,” Superintendent Scott Grabenhorst said in an interview.
The case has sparked myriad rumors and accusations on social media.
Grabenhorst said several team members harassed another teammate by making comments about a female relative during the 2016-17 basketball season. The comments continued during this year’s season. The student told his parents of the harassment in December, prompting the parents to complain to the coach, Eric Swanson.
School board chairman Bill Kessler said that the administration became aware of the claim on Dec. 15, though the board did not learn about it until later that month.
“The coach did very quick deal with it,” Grabenhorst said. “There were suspensions that were given. In addition, the varsity basketball team did go through sensitivity training by a professional from outside. Apologies were made.”
Four team members were suspended from the Dec. 18 game against Winlock. Grabenhorst and other district officials declined to go into details. (The Daily News is not naming the players because minors are involved.) When school resumed after the holiday break, the team received sensitivity training, which covered the incident specifically and touched on broader issues as well, Grabenhorst said.
“It also included issues of how we treat people, how inappropriate statements lead to much more serious things,” the superintendent said.
“Unfortunately, that just wasn’t enough,” he said.
The parents who launched the original complaint went to the board seeking more discipline for the offending players, he added. Concerned parents also filled the Feb. 27 school board meeting, though Grabenhorst said that the group “had heard a lot of different things,” not all of which were factual.
Kessler told the audience that the district already had hired a lawyer to further investigate “complaints and concerns regarding the handling of a bullying and harassment claim.”
Kessler said the board hopes the investigation sorts out and verifies the facts about the harassment and evaluates the district’s response.
Grabenhorst noted that the attorney will speak with the coach, administration, the boy and parents who made the complaint, as well as the boys who were suspended. Speaking of the alleged harassers, Grabenhorst said that “they made their statements but those have not really been talked about.” “They all had things to say too,” he added.
“We are trying very hard to get this resolved and things back on track. It’s been unfortunate for everyone,” Grabenhorst said.