Baseball91's Weblog

January 26, 2013

In School Districts Above the Law

Statutory rape, based upon age, is when in Minnesota someone more than two years older than the victim engages in sexual penetration with someone at least 13 years of age and less than 16 years of age. There is no exclusions for hockey players.

“The school investigation is concluded,” Barb Olson said more than a week ago. “It’s an off-campus incident. The only connection to the school is students-athletes are involved and they ascribe to a code of conduct.”

“Over?” Like John Belushi proclaimed in the movie “Animal House”, “It’s not over.” The Sun Press & News reported on the suspensions of 13 high school hockey players over an “incident” which was investigated by the Osseo Area School District. In a judgment handed down on January 17, the senior high officials had already completed the hearing process, which allegedly included conducting “a thorough investigation,” in consultation “with the Minnesota State High School League and the Maple Grove Police Department.”

According to a story on January 25 in the Minneapolis StarTribune, “At a news conference called Thursday to talk about how to move the team forward, school officials declined to give specifics on what led to the suspension of 13 players last week. When reporters asked Principal Sara Vernig about the purported existence of a sex video stemming from the incident, she said: ‘I can’t answer that. It’s part of the investigation.’ She later added, ‘I’ll tell you, personally, it’s been devastating and disappointing.’ Longtime head coach Gary Stefano called it ‘by far my worst experience’’ in 32 years as a coach. He said references to a purported video called ‘The Show’ had been ‘brought up.’ School officials stopped him from answering further, citing privacy laws.”

Concerning the Maple Grove hockey scandal, this from City Pages:

“A person who identified himself as a student teacher in the Osseo School District (of which Maple Grove High School is a part) said the following on Twitter (his identity is being withheld; screengrabs were sent to us by a third party):

This high school hockey team sex tape is about to blow up as more of these facts come out, these kids are screwed…

[replying to someone else] I’m student teaching in that school district & the teachers were talking about it today if the stuff is true it’ll get bad..

could be a long road out of jail depending on some details…

I’m not sure how much is known yet but its all slowly coming out…

one girl, rest were hiding & watching/video-taping it…

yeah the stuff was crazy. (They do it every year, get the girl drunk, girl might have been 15 etc.) If these are true its bad…

it will depend on a lot of the detail, but it could get really bad….”

The incredible thing here is that the Maple Grove High School thought that somehow the high school had jurisdiction in this matter that was being covered up, for reasons of privacy. From the statement released by Osseo Area School Distict Community Relations Director Barb Olson it had seemed reasonable to conclude that police were on hand at the private residence, at the time of this “incident.” And the investigation, hearing and penalty all came down between January 14 and January 17? And it had seemed reasonable to conclude that the “incident” involved chemicals or sexual harassment/hazing, since penalties were (improperly) invoked under the Minnesota State High School League’s code of conduct.

So why was the Osseo Area School District releasing statements concerning a criminal matter? Why was the Osseo Area School District investigating a criminal matter under the auspices of the Minnesota High School League? In the last ten days, the Community Relations Director Barb Olson made reference to an “alleged” incident, in a press release, concerning the suspension of 13 hockey players, after an investigation into an “incident” at a private home in December.

In Maple Grove, Minnesota, school officials have just a slight idea of the code of conduct and the applicable penalties under the rules of the Minnesota High School League, based upon the press releases and news conference held to date. And where was the County Attorney with jurisdiction in these matters, over and above the “the investigation” by the Osseo Area School District and their conclusion of law to punish a violation of “the code of conduct” which each athlete signs at the start of a season. The completed investigation determined that in mid-December in a private home involving multiple athletes there were violations of the State High School League code of conducts. “We can’t provide the specifics about who were involved and what the incident was or the specific consequences,” according to Barb Olson, based upon data privacy law

Well, if you believe the TWEETS, a member of the hockey team had sex with a young woman below the age of 16. And the incident was recorded. And there was talk of “The Show” tape which must refer to a song which had come out of the movie “Money Ball” when to high school kids, even to hockey players, “ball” referred to something else. It is of note that the Minnesota State High School League’s code of conduct does not address criminal sexual conduct.

City Pages has reported that the Maple Grove Police Department had no idea of the incident. So that was why the county attorney was acting like a former soccer player keeping his/her hands off of the matter? With maybe no idea, maybe the district attorney might now start taking over the investigation, under due process, to find out what happened to “The Show,” specifying the Minnesota laws involving statutory rape.

Note the initial reaction by the administrators at the school, in their official press release last week that stated: “It’s an off-campus incident. The only connection to the school is students-athletes are involved and they ascribe to a code of conduct.” Was there a hope all of this discomfort, when the young men knew the young women at the party, would go away? Was the failure to notify the county attorney because it was the kids of Maple Grove? Or did no one in Maple Grove recognize criminal sexual conduct? And what of the suggestion that this might be some kind of lingering hockey ritual in Maple Grove, passed along from one class to the next? Whether in public school or private churches, sexual abuse by people you knew was hard to consider — by police and county attorneys.

If the alleged woman involved was 15 years old, rather than calling the Minnesota High School League, the county attorney should be filing charges, whether the family of the victim agrees or not. The public interest included the degree of fame and honor a hockey player got in the first place from representing his high school. And an investigation should include how long this “Show” has been going on.

Meanwhile, in facing the most private parts of lives, with school administrators dragging a code of conduct of the Minnesota State High School League into the discussion, to cloud a public accounting of the matter, the hockey team was intact, the perpetrator as well as the bad kids on the team who said nothing were back on the ice, in uniform with their mouthguards, representing a high school and an administration with so little idea where the real world begins. And the law not yet enforced.


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POST SCRIPT: Maple Grove is a city in Hennepin County, Minnesota. The Hennepin County Attorney serves as the chief prosecutor of all adult felony crimes and juvenile offenses in Hennepin County. The County Attorney is also responsible for providing legal counsel to the County Board of Commissioners and all county departments, as well as representing the county in civil lawsuits, child support matters, child protection actions and mental health commitments. The Osseo School District is the fifth-largest school district in the state of Minnesota, serving all or parts of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove, Osseo, Plymouth, and Rogers. The Osseo School Board re-elected Maple Grove resident Dean Henke, a twenty-five year resident of Maple Grove, as the board chair (with his 9 years of experience as an Osseo school board member) at annual organizational meeting on January 8, 2013. The Osseo School Board also elected Teresa Lunt vice chair, Tammie Epley clerk and Jim Burgett treasurer.



  1. See how school districts in other states deal with similar issues of sex abuse on a sports team.

    Maple Grove Police Captain Tracy Stille said that the incident did not lead to a criminal complaint or a report with his department, the London Daily Mail is reporting.

    Crimson Hockey began officially on November 11, 1996 with the first practice in school history. Things got off to a very good start with the first game on November 26 against Robbinsdale Cooper. Dan Winkler scored on the first shot on net in Crimson history propelling the Crimson to their first victory. On January 30 of that year the Crimson moved to the Maple Grove Community Center and opened it with a 7-1 victory over Coon Rapids.

    Comment by baseball91 — January 27, 2013 @ 6:03 AM | Reply

  2. On January 29, 2013 Hennepin County prosecutors charged LeAnn Bobleter Sargent — a 22-year veteran of the Maple Grove City Council elected to office in 1990 and re-elected every four years since then, a real estate broker and handbag salesperson — with exploiting a vulnerable adult, along with two counts of perjury. “It’s an exploitation of her father,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman fumed in announcing the charges, “that violates every rule of decency.” He alleged that between 2009 and March 2011, Sargent drained the bank accounts of more than $153,000 of her now-deceased father, Robert E. Bobleter, who she had cared for in her home, in money over and above an agreed monthly amount that he pay for her help. As a state probate matter spilled into the criminal courts, Sargent allegedly did not report those amounts as income when she and her husband, Scott Sargent, filed for bankruptcy in February 2011.

    Comment by baseball91 — February 1, 2013 @ 6:03 PM | Reply

  3. It should be noted that the hockey coach at Maple Grove High School did not have his contract renewed following the 2012-13 hockey season.

    Mum. School board members were mum. Teresa Lunt, the school board’s vice chair, referred all questions about the video, to a district spokesperson, like district spokesperson, Babara Olson of ISD 279-Osseo Area Schools, the award-winning school system that inspires. James Burgett, board treasurer, referred all questions to a district spokesperson about the video, declining to say if he was receiving calls concerning these suspensions in the hockey program.

    Mum. Given few details by Principal Sara Vernig, Ryan Gau, a teacher at the high school, said school workers were told to say little, with teachers instructed to “discourage students from talking [and] making it become a distraction.”

    Exalted status. Hockey gods. The private lives of hockey gods. With an eery silence like what had come out of the Vatican over the past decade, Principal Sara Vernig and Wendy Loberg, who oversees athletics for the Osseo Area School District, called a briefing to get some control over the news if not the students, while outlining their “action plan” to have coaches, school leaders and students focus on instilling leadership and raising expectations of students. Wendy Loberg, who oversees athletics said that what occurred – never specifying why thirteen hockey players were given two-game suspensions, with a couple players getting four-game suspensions – was part of a larger societal problem. Wendy Loberg said that risqué movies and TV shows contributed to “the problem” on the team. Sara Vernig said that Coach Stefano will help implement “the plan” after reports of “the incident” with a video of the “incident” swept through the school via social media.

    Mum. About statutory rape. Using ‘data privacy’ laws perhaps to not make the Maple Grove School District of
    Independent School District 279-Osseo Area Schools, the award-winning school system that inspires, look bad. In what clearly was a secular coverup. So with what has been going on with the collection of data by all the intelligence agencies, “We wanted to be careful to support all of the good things we were doing,” said teacher Gau, “and not let an incident like this take over.”

    A motion to sever ties between the Osseo-Maple Grove youth hockey association, which oversees about 900 players while conducting joint clinics with the varsity team, and the Maple Grove varsity high school program placed on an association meeting agenda had been pulled before their meeting occurred. “I do think there are issues with leadership, both within the DISTRICT and the high school hockey program,” said Todd Hill, former president of the Osseo-Maple Grove Hockey Association. That motion to sever ties would have barred high school players and coaches from having any interaction with youth teams and/or players.

    In a short if not mum statement, the Osseo Area School District confirmed through district spokesperson, Barbara Olson, that head coach Gary Stefano – the most likeable of any of these representatives of the Maple Grove Senior High – would no longer be the head coach; still behaving as if nothing had really happened, she would not say much else. But how could she? While outlining their “action plan” to have coaches, school leaders and students – everyone except the people with the real power overseeing Maple Grove High School starting with the school board and all of its officers – focus on instilling leadership along with raising expectations of students. “Maple Grove Senior High administrators are looking forward to hearing stakeholder perspectives as the school begins the process of hiring a new head hockey coach,” said Barbara Olson, who more than six weeks before had announced the school investigation about the off-ice, off-campus “incident,” was concluded. Yeah, after an incident like this, who believed anything about these collaborating administrators – Teresa Lunt, James Burgett, Principal Sara Vernig, or Wendy Loberg – and about any direction that they were looking? And did you note the name of the school board chair missing in all of the news stories?

    School Board chair Dean Henke, in his first weeks of a four-year term as chair, defended the district’s actions surrounding “the incident.” Contrary to the printed remarks attributed to the local police, Dean Henke said the district immediately reported the allegation to the police — without saying when, or what police, or what the allegations involved — while stating the school district cannot confirm or deny even the most far reaching rumors of ‘the incident’ “because we are responsible for complying with data privacy laws.” So even if the incident was digitally recorded, which the staff has been gagged to confirm, the action of this school board — in their very own new forms of denial using ‘privacy laws’ — puts their own interpretation of data privacy far above statutory rape of a female student. And I would not want my daughter no matter what her age studying in such a school district.

    Comment by baseball91 — May 18, 2015 @ 11:02 PM | Reply

  4. On the arrogance of school districts…….

    On the arrogance of school districts, protecting an image . . . “School districts frequently won’t divulge information about attacks, fighting public records requests or declining to answer basic questions. Sometimes that’s because they’re trying to be sensitive to students. Other times, experts say, it’s about protecting school image. “Does a school district really want it out that they’re not protecting kids and kids are being sexually assaulted, and then turn around and ask you for money to build a new library?” Hopkins said.

    It is always the same issue: Who should have been? Putting a stop to “it!” The report of ABC News that “dozens of teens have been the victims of abuses ranging from fondling to assault to being videotaped in the shower, suggesting that their compiled numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg. Saying that the problem is ‘not nearly as serious in USA Swimming as it might be in the rest of society,’ USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus defended the organization, noting that USA Swimming has been affiliated with 12,000 coaches over the past decade.

    “‘… I don’t want to be the one to sit here and say 36 [36 coaches] is not too many. One is too many. But this is not just a problem that is isolated to one sport.’”

    Comment by baseball91 — February 16, 2017 @ 9:00 PM | Reply

  5. On the arrogance of Michelle Kelm-Helgen who was better than us all. Like the athletes who play in the stadium she built, with tax-payers’ dollars. Her authority came out of the legislation established in 2012 that taxed the public $498 million to build the one billion dollar U.S. Bank Stadium. In her announcement to quit, Kelm-Helgen defended her stadium authority that she operated by “saying giving tickets to friends and family was standard practice for such stadiums.”

    Why should executives from the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority have to pay to use the stadium suites ? Aren’t these just perks to be expected? Football players get free seats. And she wasn’t fired by Governor Dayton to whom she had been a former aide; Dayton had appointed her to the stadium authority.

    “I want to be clear that this is my decision, and my decision alone,” Kelm-Helgen said. The 100 page report released last week by the State Auditor concluded of the twelve events held at U.S. Bank Stadium examined by the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, MSFA officials and staff provided 158 tickets to family members and friends. The report by Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles concluded that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority “violated a core ethical principle of public service when they gave free tickets to family and friends. They also violated state law by not keeping a record of who received free tickets.”

    Neither Michele Kelm-Helgen nor Ted Mondale will receive severance pay. Minnesota Senator Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) had said the findings by Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles are troublesome enough to cost Michele Kelm-Helgen, the MSFA Chair, her job.

    Comment by baseball91 — September 2, 2017 @ 10:48 AM | Reply

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