The situation involving the high school volleyball players, who were excluded from receiving all-conference honors, was again a topic of discussion during the public input portion of the North Crawford School Board meeting last Thursday.
Ritchie Stevenson, a parent of two of the volleyball players, reminded the board that he had, at several previous meetings, pressed to have an investigation of the situation. While all the details are not known, it has been acknowledged by some of those involved that the seven other conference volleyball coaches voted unanimously to exclude any North Crawford players from consideration for all-conference honors. This action was taken because the coaches felt that comments allegedly made by the players about their coach on Twitter were inappropriate. To date, the content of the alleged Tweets has not been made public.
In answer to Stevenson’s questions about an investigation, North Crawford School District Administrator Dan Davies said he anticipated the matter would be on the agenda of the next board meeting.
North Crawford School Board President Mary Kuhn explained a conversation about the matter with other district administrators in the conference had not occurred because the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather.
The district has requested information through the district administrators about the all-conference meeting from coaches of each of the schools.
Stevenson appeared frustrated by what he believes is a lack of action on the part of the district.
“Why was the district not doing an investigation the day after it was known?” Stevenson asked the board. “Why haven’t we started an investigation without the letters?”
Board member Miguel Morga took issue with a statement made by Stevenson that the district had “done nothing” about the situation.
Morga told Stevenson the North Crawford School Board did not have oversight ability over the coaches’ all-conference decision.
Kuhn told Stevenson that WIAA had been contacted and indicated they believed there were no ethical violations by the conference coaches in reaching their decision, which excluded the North Crawford players
Stevenson took exception to the WIAA interpretation and quoted WIAA bylaws that indicated players cannot be punished by coaches at an all-conference meeting.
Stevenson insisted the district had the right to protest the all-conference decisions and should have protested it.
Kuhn noted all-conference honors are acknowledged to be a “subjective decision” of the coaches.
In answer to Stevenson, Kuhn said that the district to date had received only one letter answering questions about the meeting posed by North Crawford. The board president also noted the district could not force the other conference coaches to answer the questions.
At that point, an attorney, who identified himself as Matt Giesfeldt, said he was prepared to speak on behalf of Ritchie and the girls. He immediately acknowledged the school district did not have the authority to force the conference or the WIAA to respond to its questions.
Giesfeldt urged the board to do what it could to provide the girls some resolution. He indicated the girls are perceived to have done something wrong.
The attorney urged the board to take some action that provides resolution to the girls involved. He asked that the district formally state that yes you screwed up or no you didn’t.
Giesfeldt said the girls were being judged inside by their peers and parents and outside by court of public opinion. He said they were looking of speedy resolution to the situation.
At that point, village board president Mary Kuhn told Giesfeldt that the school district’s attorney, Eileen Brownlee, had advised the district to have any attorneys talk to her and she provided Giesfeldt with Brownlee’s office phone number.
Giesfeldt urged the board to consider proactive actions it could take.
Morga told the attorney that the board was fact gathering, as best they could, and agreed the players involved had gone through a difficult time.
Stevenson pointed out that in three months the board had received just one letter in response to its questions.
Dr. Davies then interjected that the attorney had been provided with the number of the school district’s attorney and they should talk.
Kuhn added that she was not saying the board was not taking action, but noted the school district’s attorney would advise the board that when they were talking with someone else’s attorney they should have that attorney talk with her.
Davies took exception with comments that the district had failed to look at the situation or address it. He explained that it was determined there was no violation of the athletic code
“There wasn’t anything to investigate,” Davies said.
Jean Troxel, the parent of a player on the team, asked if every player on the team had been investigated.
“No players were investigated,” Kuhn said in response.
Morga said school personnel investigated allegations that inappropriate comments were made and concluded there were no athletic code violations.
Board member Terry O’Donnell explained that the all-conference coaches meeting was where the decision was made to exclude the players from all-conference consideration, not within the school district.
Morga said from the school’s side the matter was properly investigated by the administration, the athletic director and the coach. That group reached a decision on the matter and the board never saw it, according to Morga.
In answer to a question, North Crawford volleyball coach Anna Davidson explained how the all-conference coaches’ meeting was held and how the decision on all-conference selections were made.
Jean Troxel had the last word on the situation.
“The team made it to the state level,” Troxel said. “In my personal opinion, maybe the North Crawford staff at the all-conference meeting could have advocated a little better for our girls. They deserved better.”