By Robin Fornoff
CMI PROJECTS EDITOR
Almost 10 months ago, Melrose schools Superintendent Jamie Widner heard rumors one of two coaches now under investigation for sex crimes might be having inappropriate contact with a student.
Widner said Wednesday that he decided to counsel the coach last April rather than report him to law enforcement because “at that point it was all rumor and innuendo … there was no concrete proof.”
Curry County Undersheriff Wesley Waller confirmed the male coach remains a target of an ongoing investigation at Melrose schools.
Volleyball coach Allison Draper, 28, was charged Monday with felony sexual penetration of a 15-year-old Melrose girl and multiple felony counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor.
Waller stressed the two cases are separate. Investigators learned of Draper’s alleged relationship with the girl the day after launching a probe Feb. 9 against the unidentified male coach. During the course of the investigation, the girl’s mother told sheriff’s investigators she received a call Feb. 10 from Draper and “Draper revealed to her that she had inappropriate thoughts about her daughter…,” according to court records.
When the girl’s mother pressed Draper for more information, Draper “told her she had kissed” the woman’s daughter, court records show.
Sheriff’s investigators confiscated the 15-year-old’s cell phone and are searching it for texts with equipment that can also reveal the substance of any deleted text messages.
During a Feb. 14 interview, the girl said several incidents between her and Draper took place between December 2012 until the start of the investigation. She recounted text messages, according to court records, of Draper saying “I love you, I miss you, I can’t wait to see you” and said Draper called her “Babe, Hon or Honey and Baby.”
Draper’s husband, Jay Draper, and brother-in-law, Tyler Belcher, are members of the Melrose School Board. She was a contract coach, not a teacher on staff. She resigned last December for what Widner said were unspecified personal reasons.
Draper is under house arrest after posting bond Tuesday. She could not be reached for comment.
Draper’s arrest has rocked the tiny community of about 650 people. Widner said he is concerned about the reputation of the school. He said more importantly, he is concerned with protecting the town’s children.
“My roots run deep in this community,” Widner said.
The male coach under investigation and the teenager are identified in court documents. Clovis Media Inc. isn’t identifying the coach because he hasn’t been charged with a crime. The newspaper, by policy, doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault.
State law specifies any teacher or school staff “who knows or has a reasonable suspicion that a child is an abused or neglected child shall report the matter immediately to … a local law enforcement agency.”
Widner said he is aware of the law. There were questions, Widner said, but “I didn’t feel like there was suspicion.”
Widner also said he wouldn’t handle a similar situation any differently than he did last April should it come up again, adding “This is a dynamic situation … if (school) board members believe there needs to be a change, we certainly will make it.”
“I don’t know that I was wrong in the way I handled this situation,” Widner said.
Widner said he advised the male coach “not to put himself in situations to be questioned.”
Widner confirmed that former school board President Scott Dickerman resigned around the time rumors of the male coach’s inappropriate behavior surfaced. He said Dickerman, however, resigned because he was having unspecified problems with some school coaches regarding his son’s participation in sports. He declined to provide a copy of Dickerman’s resignation letter.
Dickerman didn’t return several telephone calls.
Widner said Dickerman and most other board members were aware of the rumors about the male coach when they surfaced last April and the matter may have been discussed in a closed board session. Board President Neil Delk didn’t respond to telephone calls.