Damascus HS athletes unsupervised in locker room at time of alleged rapes

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An internal investigation into the alleged rapes that occurred in the football locker room of a high school in Montgomery County, Maryland, found that there was a lack of player supervision during the time of the assault.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said in a letter that there was no direct adult supervision from 2:50 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. in the boy’s locker room at Damascus High School — the time the alleged assault took place on Oct. 31.

The junior varsity coaches, who would have been responsible for supervising during the time before the JV football team goes to practice in the field, were late in arriving, and their delay was not communicated to other coaches or staff.

Smith said that the lack of protocols to ensure coverage in the locker room is unacceptable, since the school county guidelines state that coaches must supervise student-athletes at all times. There were no adults present in the locker room at the time of the assault, Smith said during a news conference.

In addition, the investigation found that there is not enough evidence to suggest that staff delayed reporting the assault.

School officials reported the assault to Montgomery County police at 8:30 a.m. the following day — more than 12 hours after they learned about it on the night of Oct. 31, The Washington Post reported.

In the context of what was said and reported to school officials on Oct. 31, Smith said that ” it didn’t indicate a sexual assault at the time.” However, the next morning, it became clearer, and the school contacted police, Smith said.

Smith said that the school system is looking for a new athletic director and JV coaching staff, and the entire football program at the school is under probation.

JV coach Vincent Colbert won’t be continuing at Montgomery County schools, Smith said. Colbert had been on administrative leave as part of the school’s investigation.

Last week, the high school’s athletic director Joe Doody was placed on administrative leave. Smith said that the school will begin the process of identifying a new athletic director. Doody will remain in the school system as a teacher, but not at Damascus High School, Smith said.

Jeff Sullivan, director of System-wide Athletics at Montgomery County Public Schools, said that his department is providing oversight support.

“Throughout the course of the spring season, my office and me directly have been checking in with the high school athletic directors, with coaches in my travels and with our high school principals to really identify what is working, what are some areas that we can enhance that plan, which we have identified some, and really looping in the security teams at the schools.”

Earlier this year, Montgomery County Public Schools released new guidelines meant to improve the supervision of student athletes.

He said that all high school coaches have been informed that they need to be in the locker room when students are there. All student-athletes and coaches will know what to do before and after practices, he said.

The new guidelines require head coaches to submit detailed plans before each new season, showing how athletes will be supervised before, during and after games and practices.

“It’s important to have that consistently across our 25 high schools and 40 middle schools, not just in the athletics program but the broader extracurricular program,” Sullivan, said.

He said after-school safety and security is a collaborative effort, and he’s been monitoring how the new guidelines are being received.

On Monday, Kevin Yates took over as acting principal of Damascus High School following the resignation of Casey Crouse, who took a job at the central office as “administrator on special assignment” while retaining her principal’s salary.

“It has become clear that in order for Damascus High School to move forward, it will require new school leadership,” Crouse wrote in her Tuesday resignation letter.

Members of the football team are accused of attacking four freshman members of the JV football team on Halloween last year in the locker room.

Four of the five accused were initially charged as adults. NBC Washington reported that the defendants said that what happened was part of a hazing ritual.

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