The resignation of Juanita High School baseball head coach Sherman Leach has prompted the Lake Washington School District to end its investigation into bullying and gay slur allegations against him.
The district placed Leach on administrative leave with pay from his position on April 13, after a JHS student accused the coach of bullying him and making gay slurs about the student and his friend. Leach resigned from his position on May 1.
“In this case, the investigation was not completed because the coach resigned,” said Kathryn Reith, communications director for the district. “There were no formal, official findings.”
In his resignation letter to the school dated May 1, Leach said the accusations are untrue and denied any wrongful conduct, according to investigation documents the district released on Monday.
“The ease in which this investigative process was initiated, the length of time it took to conduct, the disruption it caused to the team and the apparent lack of respect to all involved is not an environment conducive for team success,” said Leach in the letter.
The Reporter could not reach the coach immediately for comment.
The father of the alleged victim reported to school officials on April 12 that he believed the coach had “bullied” and “demeaned” his son by making gay remarks about him, according to investigation documents. The father accused the coach of referring to one of his son’s friends as his “boyfriend.”
One student said he heard the comments after a game, but believed the coach was joking “to relate to the team,” the documents continue.
The coach admitted to asking the alleged victim’s friend, “How’s your boyfriend,” after finding out about the boy’s injury.
However, the coach’s attorney, Frederick Ockerman, said that Leach had “no intention of the reference being interpreted as a gay slur or other improper comment as ‘boys’ can be ‘friends’ without a sexual connotation …,” according to district documents.
In the investigation documents, Leach expressed to school officials his frustration with the investigation, which he said was drawn out and incomplete.
“If the investigator had talked with more parties involved, instead of merely taking the word of two student witnesses, he may have discovered that in fact this allegation was actually in retaliation for the player being upset that he was asked to bring his jersey back, since he was injured and out for six weeks and we needed to have the jersey to put on another player who could play during that time,” said Leach in a letter to school officials.
He urged the district to re-examine its investigation process.
“It won’t help me out, but it will certainly help out the next coach who is targeted by a disgruntled player and/or their family,” he said. “Intimidation, harassing and bullying can be done to coaches and administrators, and not just students.”
However, Reith said "these are difficult investigations and it's really important for us to take the time to try and determine everything that's going on and this is not something that we want to rush into because we know it is critically important to both the student and staff involved."
At the same time, she said the investigation was not completed because the coach resigned.