ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — A year has passed since an investigation into allegations of misconduct was launched following an alleged hazing incident involving members of the Dimond High School football team.
"My immediate thought was, 'How could this happen to young people?'" said ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop, "by young people, to young people."
This year, however, the season is off to a better start across the district. Instead of an entire high school football team being sidelined, all Anchorage School District football squads are allowed to play under the Friday night lights.
Over the last 12 months, the Anchorage School District has been spending time working on training staff and coaches to be better equipped to identify incidents of harassment, bullying and other potential misconduct, according to officials.
"To prevent and report instances of incidents like sex harassment, bullying, hazing," said Martin Lang, ASD Secondary Education Director. "We're making sure all our coaches are aware of their responsibilities under the law."
For the hundreds of coaches who look after more than 14,000 student-athletes each day, there is now more oversight, more training, and thus — according to ASD — more protections in place for participants.
"It went beyond football," Bishop said. "While this happened while on a football trip, we have thousands of students involved in sports and extracurriculars."
For example, after the incident with Dimond last year — a case that is ongoing — 150 additional coaches underwent a training called Coaching Greatness, which includes a focus on a social contract or agreement of common goals and interests between coaches and players.
"It really looks beyond the technical aspects of the sports program," Lang said, "beyond the X's and O's. What are they doing to really build positive culture in their program?"
Additional sessions on Coaching Greatness are set to happen later this school year, he said, adding that the district has received positive coach and player feedback since more staff members have gone through the program.
Lang also said that staff, teachers and coaches are now being educated on a more in-depth level when it comes to Title IX, a section of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which is in large part meant to prevent discrimination.
Tim Davis, Head Coach of the West High School football team, was part of the first group of coaches who went through Coaching Greatness and said there's a responsibility in the hands of every coach. This includes but is not limited to not only safety and a positive environment, but being able to handle what comes at you off the football field as well.
"That's really what we're coaching, is great moments, and then those low moments," Davis said. "Whatever we can do to help guide them through those times, that's really our job."
The hope, from all parties, is a future as bright as the summer skies and those Friday night lights.
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