A loophole saved Central High School athletic coach from being charged with a sex crime
Senate bill seeks to expand definition of sexual contact
PIERRE, SD — Senate Bill 81 proposes to add three words to the definition of sexual contact. According to Senator Hélène Duhamel (R – District 32), these three words would have led to charges being laid against a Central High School athletic trainer for massaging young girls in a certain way.
The current definition of sexual contact delineates specific parts of the body. The law’s terms limit the definition to a woman’s breasts or any person’s genitals or anus “with the intent of arousing or satisfying the sexual desire of either party. “. Senate Bill 81 expands the definition to include any person’s buttocks or inner thighs.
Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, Alaska and Hawaii already include these terms in their statutes.
“A cross-country ski coach was taking young girls to his hotel room, laying them individually on his bed face down and he was giving them massages, especially of those private areas and the girls felt bad comfortable,” Duhamel said.
She says that because the definition of sexual contact is so strict, no charges were laid.
“And that’s why we’re making this change to the law so that can’t happen,” Duhamel said. “It’s a very simple but significant change to strengthen our laws and will make a difference for a lot of people.”
The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate court hearing on Thursday morning. A family member of a victim and an investigator from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office were among those who testified. The incidents came to light when a ‘young woman spoke out after learning the coach had done this to other girls, one at a time’. Four students have since come forward.
According to the investigator, the coach also made multiple inappropriate statements to the female students, such as telling them that the massages would “help them run better” and suggesting that the girls delay their menstrual cycles to be better athletes.
The coach was not identified during the hearing. According to Senator Duhamel, the man will not be publicly identified pending an ongoing investigation with the Department of Social Services. She adds that once the allegations were made to schools in the Rapid City area, the district acted quickly, but could not comment on the time period in which the events occurred.
NewsCenter1 has reached out to Rapid City Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon for further information regarding the coach’s identification, status and years of employment, and action taken after he took knowledge of the allegations:
“Whenever a concern of this nature about a member of staff is brought to our attention, we treat it very seriously. We immediately place the employee on leave, investigate, work with law enforcement if necessary, and then take the appropriate measures.
Dr Simon added, “that appropriate action, including termination, is taken in situations where the results of the investigation warrant it”.
The bill was postponed by the Senate until Monday for debate and a vote. NewsCenter1 will continue to follow as this story develops.