Most public school administrators in Kansas are keeping a wary eye on Topeka to see if there even will be a school year for which they’re currently planning.
In Great Bend, they’re also attempting to persuade parents there is no need to keep a wary eye on the district’s athletic program despite what has taken place during the past four months.
Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Brad Reed likely wishes there only was school funding to discuss.
Instead, Reed is spending time defending himself, the district and the athletic department as unseemly incidents apparently keep taking place.
The latest is the arrest of the Great Bend track coach after he was accused of sexual exploitation of a child, according to a report in the Hutchinson News. Todd Kaiser, 54, has been suspended with pay while law enforcement investigates the allegations.
“I’m sure the legal system will work itself out,” Reed told the Hutchinson News. “If Mr. Kaiser had committed crimes, he’ll be held accountable for that. If he hasn’t, it will be found he hasn’t done that, but, that doesn’t have anything to do with me or the school system.”
Putting distance between the district and an alleged child sex crime makes sense, as details have yet to be made public.
But Reed also attempted to deflect two other sexual assault incidents that were very public — one of which already has resulted in convictions.
The Great Bend High School boys’ swim team made news earlier in the year for two particular bus rides home from meets.
Returning from Manhattan on Feb. 6, team members reportedly took the pants off one of the younger swimmers and attempted penetration with “toes, sandals and fingers,” according to the boy’s mother.
Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz, who said several students were victimized, initially recommended battery charges against five swim team members and criminal restraint charges against three others. Thus far, two Great Bend teens have been convicted of Class “B” misdemeanor battery in connection with the incident.
While talking with The Hutchinson News about the track coach, Reed mentioned that bus incident as well.
“The bus incident was horseplay that got too rough,” Reed said. “It happens in every district in America. We don’t want them to happen, but that happens.”
He added if authorities had found proof of the allegations, “the school district would’ve taken action.”
Perhaps the confusion stems from a pending civil lawsuit that was filed in May regarding that evening’s hostilities. Reed is a defendant in that case, along with the high school principal, two swim team coaches, a bus driver, school board members, and parents of certain team members.
Or, Reed could be thinking about an incident that took place on the team bus returning from a Feb. 3 meet in Salina. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate a claim of battery in that case, but declined because of an excessive caseload.
The Barton County Sheriff’s Office said its investigation found evidence to support charges of aggravated criminal sodomy, battery and criminal restraint. A court hearing for a 17-year-old GBHS student is not expected until sometime in August.
Still, the superintendent insists all the incidents have “nothing to do with Great Bend athletics.”
We respectfully disagree. Two students riding on the swim team bus have been convicted in one of the February incidents; charges are pending in the other.
It is the job of the superintendent, the coach, the driver, and everybody else involved with school athletic events to ensure no harm comes to anybody on that bus. Refusing to accept responsibility doesn’t make the issue go away — it simply compounds an already bad situation.
As lawmakers attempt to keep schools from being shut down in Great Bend and elsewhere, USD 428 patrons should demand accountability of their own leaders. If Great Bend schools will be open and sports seasons take place, parents need to know their children are safe participating. A superintendent in denial might not be the best individual to provide such comfort.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry