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Second HS coach sex scandal rocks Madras

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jul 22 2014 10:22:07 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2014 07:40:09 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent has reaction from Jefferson County District officials following the second sex-abuse scandal in just eight months.

MADRAS, Ore. -

A second coach-related sex scandal hits Madras High School in just eight months as a track coach was arrested Monday.

Melissa Bowerman, the Madras High School head track coach and daughter-in-law of late Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, is behind bars after Oregon State Police charged her with second-degree sex abuse involving a 17-year-old male student.

It comes less than a year after the school's head girls' basketball and soccer coach, Michael Osborne, was placed behind bars on similar charges involving a female student.

"Once is inexcusable, twice is just devastating," Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Rick Molitor said Tuesday in an interview with NewsChannel 21.

But some in Madras question why school officials didn't see it coming.

"They made a mistake hiring this person, who's already had a bad record," a Madras parent said.

It's not the first time the 43-year-old Bowerman of Fossil has made headlines for what some deemed inappropriate contact with a student.

Two years ago, she was let go from a volunteer track coaching position at a joint program between Wheeler and Condon high schools after she took a 17-year-old boy to his prom.

The Oregonian reports the at the time of Bowerman's dismissal, Brad Sperry,  athletic director of Wheeler High and superintendent of the Fossil School District, told the newspaper: "All I will say for the record is that there is way more to that story than just a date to the prom, and no comment on anything else."

Molitor said Tuesday he knew all about the scandal when he hired Bowerman in 2012. He said the district's own investigation turned up nothing illegal.

"We talked to people who were involved, and it really did come out that this was a one-time issue," Molitor said. "It was a mistake, and people make mistakes."

The district hired Bowerman and her husband, Jon Bowerman, in 2012 as volunteer track coaches. The following season, the high school offered the pair paid positions.

"There was no indication whatsoever that the poor choices she made were any indicator she would do anything illegal," Molitor said.

Molitor also said the district didn't want to pass up the opportunity to hire individuals tied to Nike, although the Bowerman name wasn't necessarily what drew the district in.

"The Bowermans have connections to the track community, the nation-wide community," Molitor said. "The roles and the positive elements that we had seen in their past history of getting students to participate and having access to athletes going to Nike facility training.

"So I wouldn't say it was necessarily the lure of the name Bowerman, it was more about what skills and resources they had that they could bring to our program."

Now, Molitor said the district regrets its decision to give Bowerman a second chance. He also said he questions the district's hiring policies, although it always performs background checks on all employees and volunteers.

"We have the Special Districts Association of Oregon coming in to help us do a review of our current policies and procedures on background checks, hiring and training and staff conduct," Molitor said.

In addition to second-degree sex abuse, Bowerman is also charged with luring a minor, second-degree online sexual corruption of a child and contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor.

OSP investigators said they are concerned there may possibly have been other victims. Anyone with information regarding the investigation is asked to call OSP Northern Command Center dispatch at 800-452-7888.

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