A second investigation into the Capital High School girls soccer program found that two coaches violated their obligations under the district’s harassment, intimidation and bullying prevention policy.
The 2017 investigation found that coach Nan Brisko refused to coach or communicate with a player and that both Brisko and coach Lindsey Gilstrap did not address allegations of behavioral concerns that affected a player’s playing time and starting status. A summary of findings from the investigating attorney said the decisions impeded the player’s growth and improvement as an athlete.
The decisions “marginalized the complaining player over the remainder of the season, reinforced the supporter/detractor divide among the players, perpetuated the perception of the complaining player as a ‘bully’ among players and parents, and generated similar spectator attitudes toward the complaining player, resulting in the calls for retribution against the family generally for raising issues in the first place,” the summary said.
Under the district’s school policy regarding bullying, any school employee who witnesses, overhears or receives a report of bullying, intimidation or harassment is required to report it.
“The coaches’ decision to not directly address their concerns about the player’s conduct violated their express obligations under Policy 3005, if they believed the reports suggested bullying, intimidation or harassment,” the summary said. “The obligations could not be delegated to a peer and friend and the coaches’ determination to do so was a derogation of duty, as well an unreasonable response to reports of concerns.”
The school district provided documentation showing that claims of retaliation, departure from expected standards and failure to report allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment were substantiated, but it declined to provide a copy of the complaint submitted by parents that would have provided details about specific incidents. The school district did not provide a written response to the Independent Record's formal public records request for the 2017 complaint.
When asked in person why the complaints were not being released, Superintendent Jack Copps said the parents did not want the information to be public. Copps also said he expected there would be a resolution between the coaches and players instead of action from the district or school board. Brisko declined to comment.
The investigation marks the second time Brisko has been accused of bullying players. In 2016, the school board got involved after parents wrote a letter saying the administration had not properly responded to complaints by parents. Attorney Beth O’Halloran found no misconduct by Brisko at that time, but the school board decided to set aside those findings and voted to open up the coaching positions to new applicants. Brisko and Gilstrap reapplied and were eventually rehired by the board for the 2016 season. Gilstrap was named head coach with Brisko as her assistant coach.
Though O'Halloran found no misconduct in her 2016 investigation, she did note issues with Brisko’s communication. O’Halloran said in 2016 that Brisko’s blunt style kept her from effectively communicating with players or their families in “a manner that benefited the team.”
After the 2016 investigation, Brisko was cautioned by Capital High School Principal Brett Zanto and Athletic Director Jim Opitz during an evaluation to “soften” her approach. O’Halloran added that “in order to effectively continue as head soccer coach, (Brisko) should be trained or coached in effective communication with high school level players and monitored over the course of the season.”
Brisko's communication style continues to be a problem in 2017, according to O'Halloran's 2017 findings.
After interviewing 20 players, four coaches and parents who attended interviews with their children, and reviewing a written response from the coaches, O’Halloran’s findings show Brisko refused to coach or communicate with a complaining player.
O'Halloran also investigated claims of retaliation and unsafe practice conditions in 2017, but she found them to be unsubstantiated.
Her findings refer to a complaint regarding a preordained prank during a pre-season activity, but do not provide any details about what happened. "While the coaches and other players supportive of the coaches did not use the prank as retaliation against the complainants, there was an apparent lack of appreciation prospectively and retrospectively, for the girls’ perspectives on the prank, especially given Gilstrap’s and Brisko’s statements that the coaching staff had to affirmatively address the division among the team players who objected to Brisko’s rehire after the 2015/2016 season," the findings say.
The claim that Brisko conducted an unsafe practice run on Aug. 28, 2017, was not supported by Department of Environmental Quality air quality statistics, the findings say.