Protecting students from coaches who cross the line into sexual behavior

Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 06:21:30-04

They are adults your children look up to and they are supposed to guide your kids to excel at sports.

Lately, there have been several cases where coaches have gotten too close to young athletes and engaged in inappropriate behavior.

In March, Duane Millar, a teacher and coach at Howell High School, was charged with possessing child pornography. 

Also that month, a Detroit middle school basketball coach, Antoine Jones, was charged with criminal sexual conduct involving four underage teens.

Another recent case happened in Allen Park. Tyler Card, 26, is now a sex offender. He was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to Accosting A Child and Using The Internet To Communicate To Commit A Crime.

Card was a coach at the Allen Park High school swim team and he admitted to sexting a sophomore swim team member, then asking her to send him a naked picture in return, via Snapchat.

Attorney Shannon Smith tells 7 Action News cases like these are becoming more and more common.

“I think a lot of the reason is because of cell phones and how easy it is for coaches to be in touch with their players through cell phones,” said Smith.

According to Smith, there is a rise in cases with younger coaches and teachers.

“I would definitely say there have been a lot more problems with younger teachers having interactions and communications with students.  A lot of them are in their early 20s - really close in age to the students,” said Smith. “I think it’s real easy for the lines to get blurred, age boundaries to get crossed.”

According to state police, there are some websites parents can go to, to protect your child from predators such as iChat on the Michigan State Police websiteor the sex offender registry, but state troopers say, by law, coaches are supposed to go through background checks before taking the job.

However, attorneys warn coaches should never give swimmers or any other student athletes rubdowns.
Also double check to make sure a background check has been conducted on coaches or anyone on the pool deck or involved in any of your child’s sports.

There should be another adult supervising all coaching and a child should not be left alone with one adult.

When it comes to texting, Smith says, many times the messages start out subtle, and gradually slide down a slippery slope.

“Honestly the cases I have that turned into a problem or that turned into criminal charges are typically where the students are receptive to it and throwing the ball back,” said Smith. “The biggest problem is there is a reason that they are underage and not being considered as adults and so we can’t trust them to make decisions as to what appropriate and what’s not.”

As for Card, now a convicted felon, he is getting three years probation and must remain on the sex offender registry for 25 years and a lot of other restrictions.

Law enforcement advises parents to constantly monitor your children’s cell phones to stop cases like these from happening in the future.

“If you are going to allow your child to have a cell phone, what I tell my kids is this is not your cell phone, it’s my cell phone,” said Allen Park Police Chief James Wilkewitz.  “I’m letting you use it and what we do is check periodically what the content is of our children’s phones at home to make sure there is nothing inappropriate being sent out or coming in from the outside.”