Tanya Campbell’s closet is filled with 43 Emerald Ridge T-shirts and sweatshirts. All of her sneakers are the Jaguars colors: Green, black and silver.
She doesn’t think she’ll wear any of those items again.
The Puyallup School District fired Campbell from her position as volleyball head coach on Wednesday. The 38-year-old was given a choice to resign or be terminated. The decision was easy.
“I chose termination because to resign would be admitting guilt,” said Campbell, who coached Emerald Ridge for eight seasons.
Karen Hansen, executive director of communications for the Puyallup School District, confirmed the firing, but said the district will not comment because it is a personnel matter. In a letter of termination obtained by The News Tribune on Thursday, Puyallup School District superintendent Tony Apostle recommended to the school board that Campbell be fired for “serious misconduct” and conducting “inappropriate team building activities.”
Campbell’s termination stems from a team outing to karaoke night on Sept. 17 at J.R.’s Whistle Stop, 22225 Mountain Highway, in Spanaway. The team met there for its weekly off-the-court gathering. Previous gatherings occurred at Red Robin, Olive Garden, and a barbecue at a team member’s house, where Campbell brought her own karaoke machine.
Campbell said players were not required to attend and two girls were not present.
“The girls chose to go there,” Campbell said. “The girls wanted to see me do karaoke. I’m not the best, but I do it a lot. The whole evening was fantastic.”
Campbell said on that particular evening, the restaurant had a family karaoke night and no alcohol was served to any member of the team. Tammy Roy, mother of one of the players, said she drove her daughter to the restaurant around 8 p.m. and walked into the establishment to make sure it was appropriate for high school students.
“I’m a good mother, I want to see where my daughter is going,” Roy said. “There were families with kids all around, having a good time. This was not a dark bar.”
Some players stayed until 10 p.m. and others left with Campbell around 12:30 a.m. Four players slept at Campbell’s house that evening. Because she did not receive “specific approval” from the parents or school, she had violated terms of the Coaches Handbook, Apostle wrote in the letter. Yet, one parent wrote in an e-mail to The News Tribune that a majority of the parents were aware of the evening’s activities beforehand.
According to the termination letter, one of the players, a 15-year-old, met a 19-year-old man, an acquaintance of Campbell’s, at the restaurant. The two exchanged phone numbers and planned to meet again at J.R.’s Whistle Stop the next night. The girl initially told her mother that she was with Campbell on Saturday night.
Campbell, an assistant athletic director at Chief Leschi middle and high schools, said she knew the two planned to meet again Saturday night, but did not know that the girl told her mother she was with her.
The following Monday, rumors began swirling around Emerald Ridge’s campus. The principal asked her to stay home, “so he could put out fires,” Campbell said. She was put on paid administrative leave Sept. 20, asked to return the keys to the gym, attended two hearings and ordered not to contact any members of the team.
The district did not tell the players or their parents why Campbell had been removed or was being investigated. Tom Mattich, a father of one the players, said that was particularly upsetting.
“If something is wrong and my daughter is potentially at risk, I want to know what’s happening,” he said. “I understand the district has rules they have to follow about what they can say, but the players and parents were left totally out of the loop.”
The district planned to meet with players and parents after volleyball practice Thursday evening at Emerald Ridge.
On Wednesday night, Campbell attended the Jaguars’ match at Beamer High School. It was an emotional evening. Mattich, Roy and other parents met her in the parking lot and walked with her into the gymnasium.
“They showed their support for me by surrounding me like a bubble,” she said. “I cried a lot (that) night.”
Campbell, a 1990 Bethel High School graduate, said she has filed a grievance with the school district in an effort to clear her name, but she doesn’t want her job back.
“My reputation is being judged and put on the line,” she said. “People are talking and I want everyone to know the truth.”
Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/preps