STEVE HANLON: LaPorte turns a blind eye, again

2011-09-08T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:55:14Z STEVE HANLON: LaPorte turns a blind eye, againBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat
September 08, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

LAPORTE | On Thursday night, LaPorte volleyball head coach MaryBeth Lebo was not on the bench as the Slicers hosted Valparaiso. Good thing. Thank God, I say.

But what took so long?

Heads should've rolled the first time Lebo walked into the school door this academic year. The blind leading the blind should not lead young ladies in an educational setting. Period.

When trust has been lost -- and for very good reason -- it's time to get a job at Kmart. If you soil a sweater you can always knit another one. When you soil a teenager's soul, it's time to leave for good.

Lebo, who also is LaPorte's assistant athletic director, was charged on Tuesday for failing to report a sexual misconduct by former Slicers' assistant Bob Ashcraft.

Class D misdemeanor charges also were filed against athletic director Ed Gilliland and the corporation.

Ashcraft was convicted July 12 of two counts of Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor, Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor and Class D felony child seduction.

LaPorte superintendent Glade Montgomery echoed what LaPorte principal Gregory Handel told The Times at Thursday night's volleyball match.

"I'm not making any comments," Montgomery said.

We have learned through this ordeal that administrators at LaPorte have been turning a blind eye and hiding under a desk for four years, so I didn't think they'd comment Thursday. And in fairness to Montgomery, he arrived in LaPorte only after being hired in July.

Neither Lebo nor Gilliland were at Thursday's Duneland Athletic Conference showdown. Whether they have been suspended or, hopefully, fired, only time will tell. But in looking at the snapshots of what happened between Ashcraft and a Slicers player, who was 14 years old when the molestation began, justice should've been served long ago.

In previous Times news reports, fellow volleyball players said they were concerned about the behavior between their teammate and assistant coach. One player told police that Ashcraft and the girl locked themselves in a training room while everyone else was warming up for practice.

Where was Lebo?

Ashcraft and the minor cuddled while watching a DVD at a 2007 tournament, it was reported.

Coach, where were you?

At Ashcraft's trial in July, Lebo's attorney, Bill Nelson, told the judge that Lebo would assert her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination if called to testify. And still, Lebo held on to her keys to the school building after her assistant coach was convicted.

At last week's game at Michigan City, I asked Lebo how her team was able to remain so talented despite all the negative attention the program's received.

Lebo said, "The girls have remained focused on the game and are trying to get better."

It's amazing how much better adolescents can be when they're not running from the groping hand of corruption every day at school. Or from administrators who have their heads buried in the sand.

I grieve for the young lady who was let down by the school her family trusted. And I weep for any other youngsters out there who might have had the same thing happen only for administrators to shut it up.

Lebo has coached at LaPorte for 23 years. In a story that ran in The Times in August, two anonymous players said one of them went to Lebo with concerns about Ashcraft's behavior with the other player. She said Lebo told her she would take the concerns "really seriously." Then, within a week, Lebo brought the accusing girl, Ashcraft and his victim and other Slicers into the training room and brought up the concerns in front of everyone.

The Slicer then said that Lebo told her, "There wasn't going to be a spot for me on the team" if the accusations didn't stop.

The high schooler said her playing time diminished afterward.

Ed, where were you? Gregory, where were you?

Lebo should've been shown the door a long time ago. The fact that it finally happened is a step in the right direction. It's just a step that is too old, too long and too bad.

Don Henley was right when he sang about "The End of the Innocence." In this pathetic story he is right on two different counts: the girl who needed someone with a soul to stand up for her, and every person with knowledge who turned a blind eye.

You know who you are.


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