PREP SOFTBALL

C.P. continues investigation into softball coach allegations

2012-04-28T00:00:00Z 2013-04-23T19:31:08Z C.P. continues investigation into softball coach allegationsBy Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The investigation of Crown Point High School softball coach Brett Crutchfield continues more than two weeks after the science teacher was escorted out of the school April 13.

Crown Point School Corp. Board of Trustees President Scott Angel said earlier this week the investigation into allegations of misconduct "will be a long, extensive investigation." A source at the school who asked to remain anonymous told The Times the allegations involve interactions between Crutchfield and at least one student.

Crutchfield remained Friday on paid administrative leave.

Though Angel expects a lengthy investigation, Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said Friday in a statement that nothing uncovered yet points to criminal activity.

"The Crown Point Police Department is continuing to work with and share information with the Crown Point School Corp. on the reported situation involving a Crown Point High School teacher," Land said in his statement. "Our investigators have met with school officials, and the Police Department is taking all necessary steps to obtain any and all information available related to the matter.

"Our agency will carefully review all information supplied to us as well as any additional information that we may learn apart from the school. At this point, all information known and confirmed by our investigators does not indicate any criminal laws were violated."

A phone call to Crutchfield was not returned Friday night.

Nick Pappas, a former Merrillville resident and 1979 Andrean graduate, has followed similar storylines for years as a coach, researcher and author. He said these types of investigations take time as school districts work hand in hand with local police supervision and, if necessary, the appropriate child protective services agency.

Pappas said a lot of interviewing of alleged victims should be taking place. "There are a lot of things going on," Pappas said this week. "That is probably why nothing (official) has come out yet."

Pappas recently authored a book titled, "The Dark Side of Sports" — with a subtitle that reads, "Exposing the Sexual Culture of Collegiate and Professional Sports."

Pappas earned his doctorate in human development and family science at Ohio State, and he has education degrees from Ohio University and Penn State. Pappas played and coached hockey at the college and professional level, and he has worked as a middle school and high school counselor.

"I'm sure it's been hard on the kids," Pappas said. "Any time you have a mid-season coaching change it brings a disruption to the team. It's a major disruption. It is compounded when you have allegations like this."

Pappas researched his book for 12 years. Much of the study and writing took place when he was living in Merrillville from 2004 through 2011. He was surprised to hear Crown Point's team had won six of its nine games since Crutchfield was removed.

"At this age, stability and knowing what's next is important to the girls," Pappas said. "But that's been taken away."

The mother of a player who was on Crown Point's softball team in 2010, speaking on the condition she not be identified, said Crutchfield sent many text messages at strange hours to the players. Some were mass emails to the entire team; some were individual, she said.

In this spring's program book for Crown Point softball, which is distributed to fans at home games, there is a published sentence that backs up the woman's claim. In a common type of player's survey, one player responded to the prompt, "Funniest thing Coach has said."

Her reply was, "What kind of creeper texts girls at 4 in the morning?!" The quote was identified immediately in the book as coming from assistant coach Russ Serrato.

When asked about it, Serrato confirmed he did say the comment at a practice and the player overheard it. The Bulldogs were talking about a mass text Crutchfield had sent out to the team. Serrato said he never saw the text the girls were talking about. His comment, he said, was just a joke.

Pappas said this should be a wake-up call to parents.

"You have to protect and guard your children," Pappas said. "With regards to behaviors, any coach, teacher or counselor showing inappropriate over-involvement should be suspect. Too much interest isn't good. When a professional relationship becomes more personal, with phone calls and text messaging, those lines get blurred."

Pappas said there is a heavy burden on Crown Point's administration. Surely a story like this is painful and difficult to deal with, Pappas said. But as these kind of allegations seem to rise around America on a regular basis, someone has to stand up for the kids, he said.

The LaPorte volleyball scandal, in which assistant coach Bob Ashcraft was convicted last summer of sexual misconduct with a minor and child seduction, has been on Pappas' radar. He said he's followed the story on The Times website from his home in Michigan. Ashcraft was convicted of engaging in sexual activity with a volleyball player younger than 16, the legal age of consent in Indiana.

Texting was a big part of Ashcraft's case, too.

"If administrators aren't vigilant on this kind of stuff, if parents keep their lips sealed on this kind of stuff, things are allowed to continue and more victims are in harm's way," Pappas said. "If you know something, you have to speak up, even anonymously.

"If not, these kind of alleged things will go on."

Times staff writer Susan Erler contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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