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Archive for July 15, 2019

July 15, 2019 — The story repeats

Last Thursday, John Fickas, a person descriped as an “walk-on, off-campus assistant” coach for the field hockey team at North Salinas (Calif.), was arrested and held on charges of rape and sodomy for actions which reportedly occurred in 2009 and 2015, according to court documents.

According to early news reports, Fickas was the subject of several complaints by parents because of inappropriate touching and even drinking around players.

The school district’s response, in part, is as follows:

The safety and security of our students are a priority. Thus, once we were notified of the investigation we placed this coach on administrative leave, and as a result, he was directed to have no contact with any Salinas Union High School District student. We must respect the rights to privacy and due process of everyone involved, and the District cannot comment further on personnel matters or student information. As law enforcement moves forward we will take the appropriate disciplinary actions which may include termination of this coach. We appreciate the community’s understanding and support as we work through this unfortunate situation.

The optics, thus far, do not look good — especially for the school district. It’s amazing to me that, in an age where there’s a hypersensitivity about who gets access to minor teenagers in a school setting, that Fickas — and perhaps other coaches — were given a status, seemingly through the act of volunteering. It makes me wonder if there was a background check at all, something which, as I’ve come to learn in my reporting on several morals cases surrounding the U.S. field hockey community, has become a forgotten and/or misapplied tool in trying to shield students from predators.

In addition, I’m surprised at the volume of and nature of complaints regarding this assistant coach. Now, I don’t have the handwritten notes of the reporters involved, but if there was a significant pattern, somebody in the school’s athletic department really dropped the ball here.

What’s more, I’m disturbed that stronger action was not taken upon his arrest — especially given the fact that alcohol was involved. He is currently out on $400,000 bail until his arraignment a week from today.

The kicker, however is this: Fickas wasn’t even taken into custody on the rape charges until he appeared in court last Thursday to answer for charges of animal cruelty dating back to 2017.

Makes you wonder exactly where law enforcement’s priorities have been the last decade or so.