As the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board was set to approve a number of contract coaches for school athletic teams at its March 9 meeting, some parents wanted assurances that all coaches are being properly vetted.
Parent Wendy Gumb said she believed that in the case of some coaches at Torrey Pines High School, the correct hiring process was not followed. Gumb said it’s important that all coach positions are posted as per board policy and that people are allowed to apply and positions are not just given to “people that are favorites of the foundation or coaches or certain parents.”
Torrie Norton, SDUHSD associate superintendent of human resources, said notices were posted for all of the coaching positions on the list and interviews were conducted.
Norton said coaches are vetted by human resources and candidates must go through CPR(cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and first aid training, drug screening and finger printing. Additionally, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) requires that coaches complete sudden cardiac arrest training, a concussion training and a six-hour long coach’s training course. At that point, Norton said the school sites are then notified that the coaches have been cleared so that they can begin working with students.
SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill said the district also holds mandatory coaches meetings prior to every season.
Certificated teachers in the district do have priority in the hiring process for coaches, but Dill said it is challenging because they can’t force teachers to coach.
“When we don’t have willing certificated coaches that’s when we go out to ‘walk-on’ coaches,” Dill said.
Former Torrey Pines parent Elaine Kooima said the issue she has found with some contract “walk-on” coaches is that they have zero or minimal training on how to work with high school students.
Kooima pointed out that the California Educational Code states every high school student is entitled to fair and equitable treatment and have equal opportunity to practice and access to competitive facilities. Supervisory staff is also required to investigate and protect every student from harassment, intimidation and bullying.
Kooima said she was disappointed in the district’s response when she reported inequitable treatment and harassment to multiple players by a Torrey Pines contracted coach.
Kooima said she was “humiliated” and her complaints were reduced to a “trivial concern” by then- Principal David Jaffe and former Superintendent Rick Schmitt. She said she was told her complaints were just about “playing time” and she was told the principal did not have to meet with her because she did not follow protocol.
“No protocol was ever stated or given to me and it is not published on any website. Also, there is no law that says following protocol is more important than the well-being of a student. None whatsoever,” Kooima said. “And the law states that every case of bullying must be investigated immediately. I got blown off.”
Kooima said she believes that this kind of “awful, abusive treatment” is still happening at district schools and requested that the board carefully choose contracted coaches and to take complaints more seriously.
SDUHSD Trustee John Salazar agreed that the district should look more carefully at coaches, noting there is one pending complaint against one of the district sports teams, currently under investigation.
Salazar said he is also concerned with an allegation regarding district coaches that have close connections with club teams — he is concerned that coaches are making money off of students, requiring them to play for club teams in order to make the school team. He said when he hears allegations and complaints like that, he intends for the district to deeply investigate those issues.