Allegations of sexual misconduct by coaches and teachers mess things up for guys like me.
Such a case recently arose against a Temecula softball coach, who prosecutors charged with molesting four young girls. The coach, Alex Flores, has pleaded not guilty and is being held on bail of $1 million.
Flores led a travel softball team of 13-year-old girls. In an affidavit asking a judge to set a high bail amount for Flores, Detective Rachael Frost called him “a well-liked and charismatic coach.”
Five years ago I coached a co-ed soccer team of 13-year-olds. I’ve been a teacher of second- and third-graders for 14 years. I like to think of myself as “well-liked and charismatic.”
Yet I have to be oh-so-careful.
So does any coach or teacher who works with kids. And, let me tell you, there are a lot of guys who work with children in sports-crazed southwest Riverside County. And there is always a push to get more male teachers into elementary school classrooms because, especially in the America of today where so many kids grow up without dads, we need all the male role models we can get.
I suppose that makes me a valuable commodity of sorts, but look at the precautions I have to take every single day I teach.
For starters, I’m careful not to be alone in the classroom with an individual child.
If a child walks in before or after school, I prop open the door.
Obviously this isn’t always possible, given that the child might pop in for a moment and head right back out. But if it’s an extended time, I’m opening the door.
Kids want to hug me all the time but I deploy what my male colleagues call “the side hug,” meaning I turn and hug with my hip. Then there are the kids who dress inappropriately. Especially if it’s a girl, I get a female teacher to relay this information lest there be any question about what Mr. Love was saying. Of course, if I suspect child abuse, I have to call the authorities with my concern or I could lose my job. I’ve called three times and each time was stressful.
When I was a coach — I coached 13 of my son David’s basketball and soccer teams while he grew up — I took similar safety measures.
For example, I had to make sure I wasn’t alone with a kid after a practice while waiting for a parent pick-up.
The co-ed team was the last group I coached. It was a blast, but I was extra careful because of the girls.
The problem with these cases is that they make all of us who work with kids candidates for suspicion.
What a shame.