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Alarms go off when a teacher, coach or unrelated adult has private communications with a kid.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
In 2007, the parents of a Salem High School volleyball player reported to the school’s administrators that the coach was lavishing attention and gifts on their daughter. As the player would explain years later to a reporter writing about charges filed against the coach for secretly video-recording student athletes changing clothes: “He was just texting like he was my friend. . . . He was texting like he was my age.”
Danger signs that trigger the creep alert. Some teenage girls, though, are flattered when an older man, especially one they admire, pays special attention. Sadly, they don’t tell anyone and can fall prey to sexual predators.
Several years later, a different parent with a different team, NRV Juniors, reported the same coach was sending incessant text messages about his personal relationships late at night to the parent’s 14-year-old daughter.
Complaints that any adult is using his position as coach, mentor, teacher to initiate a personal relationship with a youth should be taken seriously. Easy enough, surely, for those in charge to weigh whether contact is appropriate given the trail of text messages.
Yet it wasn’t until 37-year-old Dewayne Thomas Barger was arrested for child pornography in March that these stories came to light. He continued to coach at Salem High School through 2011, and more recently at Eastern Montgomery High School. Last week, 17 additional charges were filed alleging he secretly video-taped members of the NRV Juniors as they tried on uniforms at a Salem church.
Much belatedly, the Salem School Board is addressing the issue six years after officials were notified. The board adopted policy changes that require all staff — volunteers and paid — to tell supervisors and parents if they plan to communicate through social media or text messaging. Electronic communications are to go to “multiple recipients” — team members, their parents, supervisors — or answer school-related questions “in a timely and professional manner.” Any other electronic communication with students is off limits — as it should be.
Salem’s policy changes arise out of damage control. Others would do well to adopt similar controls.
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later