Late last month, a girls' basketball coach at Brinks Junior High in Moore, Oklahoma, came under investigation after allegations that he inappropriately touched at least three students.
The coach is an employee of Oklahoma City Public Schools who contracts with Moore Public Schools as a basketball coach. His contract with Moore recently ended, and he has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by Moore police and Oklahoma City police, according to a spokesperson for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Allegations of Sexual Battery
The allegations came during a January 27 basketball game between Brinks Junior High and Central Junior High. Witnesses came forward and reported that the coach hugged a female student and touched her breasts.
The coach is not being named because he has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
The alleged victim, a 14-year-old girl, told police that the coach came up behind her during the game, put his arm around her, and placed his hand on her breast. She says that when she turned toward him, he continued to hug her, and that he again hugged her later in the game.
According to Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis, "There were several witnesses to this; it wasn't in a backroom-type thing . . . several people observed the incident." It seems odd that any adult would touch a child in a sexually inappropriate manner in the presence of multiple witnesses and even the parents of his or her "victims." This may indicate that the coach's affection for his students and players was not criminal nor sexually predatory, but rather misunderstood.
After the first accusation, at least two other students have come forward alleging inappropriate touching by the coach. One says that, in early December, the coach "rubbed her belly" before moving his hand to her buttocks, where he kept it for "four minutes."
When police questioned the mother of one of the girls, she reported that she had witnessed the coach rub her daughter's shoulders before "moving his hands down her arms and eventually in a position where he was holding her hands.'
Moore police are investigating the allegations at Brinks, while Oklahoma City police are investigating a similar allegation at the school where the coach is employed as a P.E. teacher. While police acknowledge that many parents are angry and looking for a quick arrest, they remind the public that they cannot make an arrest off of accusations alone, and that they must thoroughly investigate any claims to determine if the complaints are legitimate. A false accusation can quickly ruin a teacher's career.
Understanding Oklahoma's Sex Crime Laws
Under Oklahoma law, unwanted physical contact for the perpetrator's sexual gratification is considered sexual battery if the victim is aged 16 or older, but it is considered Lewd or Indecent Acts to a Minor if the victim is younger than 16. Because at least one of the accusers is only 14, if the coach is arrested and charged, it will likely be under the Lewd Acts statute, found in 21 O.S. 1123. This statute reads, in part, "It is a felony for any person to knowingly and intentionally . . . look upon, maul, touch, or feel the body or private parts of any child under sixteen (16) years of age in any lewd or lascivious manner by any acts against public decency and morality, as defined by law." Lewd Acts to a Child Under 16 is punishable by three to 20 years in prison and lifetime Oklahoma sex offender registration.