Was there ever punishment from Hamilton High School? You decide…

Teamwork, lifelong friendships, work ethic and most importantly fun are supposed to be the things taught to high school athletes, but unfortunately, more and more, we see it’s about reputation, coaches, administrators and of course the almighty dollar.

For Hamilton High School, located in Chandler Arizona, girls’ volleyball seems to be more about the reputation of the school and the protection of the coach/athletic director.

Too many times we hear people cry wolf and pass the blame on but sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire and in this case, it might by an inferno. Now we are referring to minors in some cases or those that were minors at the time, so of course their names will be protected. The administration is another story. Their names are here and even though the Chandler Unified School District chose not to respond further to the numerous emails and calls sent/made to them, we will use the word allegedly since this is not a court of law. The facts will be laid out to you and you can make up your own mind.

With only a short time left in the school year, two volleyball players from the girls’ volleyball team were out being teenagers and were in need of ride so they made a call to an upper classman they knew who had a car to pick them up. This young man a prominent member of the Hamilton baseball team came to their assistance but that’s where everything went south.

When he arrived he informed the girls that the ride would be $10 or they would have to perform oral sex on him. One of the young ladies had the $10 and the other did not so she was coerced into performing the act.

As she was doing this, a second young man videotaped the act laughing the entire time. Now the rule about videotaping and social media is do not do anything that you are not afraid that can come out. Unfortunately for this 14-year old victim this came out and went viral to the local high school world and keep in mind this is child pornography.

And even though the 14-year old victim did not share this with her parents right away due to her embarrassment and other reasons the word was out on the proverbial “high school streets”. She was laughed at, ridiculed, made fun off and called names.

Fortunately, you would think, a faculty member heard locker room bantering of this incident and reported this to the office. Here is where you think this gets worked out and those guilty of this heinous act has to face their actions but instead things went further south.

The young lady was called to the office and talked to by administrators without her parents notified or present. Fortunately for the young lady (victim) she notified her mother of this meeting after it took place.

The young lady’s mother reached out to Mrs. Furrow via telephone.

In turn, Mrs. Furrow expressed shock and excused the young lady from missed classes and informed her that if anyone else said anything to her or teased her regarding this matter she was to report it Mrs. Furrow. (This showed knowledge of the incident.)

During the young lady’s visit to the office on 05-25-2012, she was asked to sign a statement without her parent’s knowledge and/or consent. (Again, this showed knowledge by the school of the incident.)

Off course the mother asked for a report of this matter and that’s where the excuses began. Every reason short of the dog ate it was given. During this time, the young lady’s (victim) life was starting to spiral out of control. Since this night the things she cared about most stopped mattering especially volleyball.

Sometimes when things are at their worst for a young athlete, they can always turn to the one person that they could look up to, their coach. However in this case that was the worst option. Instead of talking to her player, head coach and athletic director Sharon Vanis did the opposite. She painted the young lady as a trouble maker and did everything to break her and eventually kicked her off the team because she didn’t want her team affected by negative behavior.

And again, this is not a court of law but something tells the intelligent person that the volleyball coach/athletic director was not kept out of the loop of this situation. Calls to Vanis from the mother went unanswered until a mistaken hang up worked up Vanis to the point of calling back because she felt “disrespected”.

Another email was sent to Vanis that spoke of the young lady (victim) attending therapy for over 5 weeks but feeling like she was being treated as an outsider. Especially since Vanis informed her that she would be “walking a very fine line”.

When Vanis did respond, this was her email response:

Wow not what I expected….ask (Minors name) how many times I asked about (young lady). She said she had her phone taken away and couldn’t talk. I’m sorry I was out of town, and I’m sorry you don’t feel like I cared about her…I thought you were sincere in your actions when we gave her 2nd/3rd chances. I wish you and especially (Young lady) the best.

By this time, the young lady (victim) was kicked off the team. The care and the concern seems quite obvious. Mind you, no report to the mother yet.

As time passed still no report even though there was numerous request made in regards to this matter. A determined mother looking for answers and relentlessly stubborn for answers sent the following email 05-13-2014

Hello Mrs. Furrow “I’m writing to you to request the incident report which had (young lady) involved in May2012 I need the portion in which she was involved with. This is very important in her healing and her future. Please let me know what I need to do to get that paper work.”

This response was met with this email in return on 05-14-2014:

“I’m sorry I haven’t gotten a chance to get back to you. I’m currently not in the office. I am off campus doing AP Testing. I will give you a call as soon as I can. I’m unclear as to what and why you are needing this information. We have FERPA laws in place that will not allow me to share that information with you. I am happy to speak to the doctor if you are looking for an explanation.”

Unless something is missed again, this is Hamilton showing knowledge of this situation.

The mother also informed Mrs. Furrow that she found out the young man’s name that orchestrated this act, she was quickly told that he was disciplined but it was never said by who or what exactly was done. Still no report provided.

At this, two years have passed with the mother still asking for the part of the report that concerned her daughter. She decided to reach out to a school administrator Mrs. Casteel and Fred DePrez, who at the time was the principal at Hamilton high school, on May 21st, 2014.

Mr. DePrez after reading the email that told the entire story of the incident and the information that the school had, replied with an email saying:

These are serious allegations and I have forwarded your email to the police for investigation.

On May 22nd, the replied in email;

Also please email me the case number from the police so I can follow up with them. Again thank you for your response

In reply to this on May 22nd as well Mr. DePrez sent the following email;

There is no case number yet. Officer Quinn is the officer.

More than a week passed with no response from any of the people involved. Officer Kevin Quinn, SRO, who was copied on the original email sent to Principal DePrez, received an additional email on 05-30-2014 that read;

Per Mr. DePrez request, I am contacting you to request the case number for the investigation which was intimated by Mr. DePrez on 5/22/2014 in regards to the original email on the bottom of this page. Unfortunately Officer Quinn will be out for the summer and I was not able to contact him directly, and when I called the records department for chandler police department the(y) had nothing pertaining this matter in their computer. I am really hoping that you will be able to help me.

Kevin Quinn did finally return this email on June 3rd and stated:

If you would like to make a police report for an incident that occurred with your daughter over Spring Break 2 years ago, you will need to call the Chandler PD non-emergency number at 480-782-4130 and file a report in person Sending an email to the school principal is not how investigations are initiated

Keep in mind, the police report request was allegedly initiated by Principal DePrez, as the mother was only originally asking for a report for her daughter and her daughter only. So in response to this email, the mother replied;

Thank you for the response. However, I did not ask for an investigation the Principal did. I am very well aware of “how” they work. If you need me to forward Mr. DePrez’ email to you I will be more than happy to. So I am asking kindly AGAIN for the case number for the investigation initiated by THE PRINCIPAL

Again time passed with no response from Hamilton or the Chandler Unified School District. Finally on 09-12-2014, the mother sent another email. Part of that email said:

I’m writing to you with much sadness that your negligence in regards to the matter involving Hamilton high school and my daughter…. It is disgusting that a school can take a student at age 15 make them give an extremely detailed description about a sexual assault and a video that was taken by other students, and not document anything, not report it and when asked about the report for TWO years send the parent on a wild goose chase. It is disgusting to know that the staff involved are still there with no consequence

On 09-15-2014, there was a response from Chandler Unified School District Governing Board Member, Annette Auxier, she sent an email staying:

I did follow up with Dr. Casteel today…… I deeply regret what your daughter has been through—the safety of our students is very important to us. Your daughter’s situation has not been taken lightly. I understand your need of knowing the discipline given to our employees. This situation has been thoroughly investigated and appropriate measures have been taken. However, because of state law we cannot disclose this information.

It’s truly amazing that it took over 2 years to get a response from the Chandler Unified School District. Two years of emails and calls. Two years of what seemed like passing the buck in hopes this situation would go away.

It’s hard to believe that the original request by the mother was a simple report and those involved were punished. She was lead to believe a police report would be filed and that everyone was reviewing this, but nothing for another long stretch of time.

She wrote one last email to Craig Gilbert, the Assistant Superintendent of the Chandler Unified School District, asking for the actions taken. She asked:

Please let me know what actions are being taken in regards to this matter with the staff involved at Hamilton High School. They never reported anything to CPS, never put anything in her file, and yet punished her and treated her like she was at fault. Also for two years they have been giving me the run around as to where her portion of that interview is when in fact they never recorded anything only to protect the athletes that mattered at the time. 

Mr. Gilbert did respond and the closing part of his email said:

As I stated in our last conversation, the issues as we know them have been address with the school.  At this time, no further action will be taken.  If new information arises, the district will review and address accordingly.

Before this story ran, Terry Locke, the Community Relations Director for Chandler Unified School District, was asked if they would like to respond. His office gave the initial response that it’s championship time and they get a lot of erroneous reports. It was not until he received a copy of the emails that he took this matter serious enough to respond.

After realizing that this was not a bogus claim he responded in email stating that the last email sent by Mr. Gilbert in August (see last email above) sums up the districts perspective.

In every story there are two sides, sometimes it can be perceived that here is a right and a wrong in every story. The views of the Chandler School District is that they did everything possible in looking at their emails.

The view of the mother is that they took her on a two year odyssey of lies and cover ups only to come back and say they did hand out discipline and they take this seriously. No report was ever given to the mother of the victim and no police report was ever filed.

In this case you make up your mind. From the outside eye, it seems as though business as usual went on for Hamilton and all those involved including head volleyball coach/athletic director Sharon Vanis.

In the case of the young victim, she is still feeling left in the cold by a coach that she thought cared about her but kicked her off the team for being a distraction following an assault.

A mother who had a two plus year crusade to bring things to light and is left with the duties of helping her child put the pieces back together.

They say there are winners and losers in every case but in this one, I’m having a hard time finding one. Maybe you can tell me, because according the Chandler Unified School District and Hamilton High School, everything was taken care of.

With that said, I’ll let you decide.

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