Damascus High School’s junior varsity football coach has been placed on administrative leave as part of an ongoing investigation into whether there was a lack of adult supervision in a team locker room in late October when police allege four players raped their teammates, according to a letter sent by the county school system to some families.
Vincent Colbert, one of several Damascus High staffers named in a Washington Post article that said school officials knew about the alleged broomstick rapes for more than 12 hours before alerting police, was placed on administrative leave in mid-April, according to the Montgomery school system.
Subsequently, Colbert was removed as head coach of the school system’s Allied Softball team, a slow-pitch softball team for children with disabilities and general education students. The team’s assistant coach, Megan Stultz, was named head coach for the rest of the season, according to the school system letter.
The Oct. 31 rape allegations have placed the Damascus school into the national spotlight and raised questions about whether a culture of hazing has been tolerated in high school sports programs.
Four players, all 15 years old, were charged as adults in late November for what county prosecutors described as a “premeditated group sexual attack” in which they allegedly raped some teammates with a broomstick. The four face first-degree rape, attempted rape and conspiracy charges, and will be tried in juvenile court.
Colbert, 54, has been the school’s JV football coach since 2006 and is not a full-time school system employee. He receives a stipend for his coaching work and is not receiving payment while on leave, a school system spokesman said.
Colbert was placed on personnel leave, rather than disciplinary leave, meaning Colbert is not being accused of wrongdoing, according to the spokesman, but was removed from his position to avoid interference in the school system’s internal investigation into the alleged attacks in a locker room.
No other Damascus High staff have been placed on leave.
Attempts to reach Colbert at phone numbers listed in online records were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.
According to the Post report, Colbert was among the first school officials to learn of the rape allegations and started a group text message with principal Casey Crouse, varsity coach Eric Wallich and the school’s athletic director, Joe Doody, outlining the allegations. The group discussed potential consequences and launched their own investigation the next morning before Crouse alerted police, according to the newspaper’s report.
An online petition has gathered more than 1,250 signatures calling for the reinstatement of Colbert, calling his removal “unexplained and unsubstantiated forced leave.”
“These men are being held accountable for actions out of their control, and the effects of the undue punishment inflicted on them impacts their families, their players, our programs, our school and our entire community,” the petition says. “The entire (football) program has been affected from team chemistry, quality of workouts and instruction, to recruiting of our varsity players who had nothing to do with this incident. Not to mention our innocent allied softball players who now head into playoffs with no head coach.”
The school system does not consider public petitions in personnel decisions, according to Derek Turner, the school system spokesman.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com