Law Firm Investigation Identifies School District’s Mishandling of Some Coaches and Their Inappropriate Conduct

Apr 5, 2024

A school district in the state of New York has acknowledged that it did not go far enough with respect to investigating the inappropriate conduct of its coaches.

The revelation was made after the Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education in the wake of an independent investigation conducted by Harris Beach.

At the same time, District Superintendent Dr. Michael Patton noted in a statement (in full below) that the law firm report exonerates the vast majority of the district’s practices with regard to hiring and monitoring coaches.

The problematic behavior centered on the fact that the District rehired two highly touted cross-country and track and field coaches despite regular complaints that took place over three decades concerning overtraining and other issues related to their treatment of student-athletes. For example, the District required the coaches, Art and Linda Kranick, to submit a plan showing how they would rectify their previous, inappropriate behavior; but never enforced that requirement.

The Harris Beach report noted that it “appears these matters were adequately discussed with the Kranicks, but the District left the management (or the correction) of these matters to the Kranicks in their discretion.”

The report continued: “With several of those complaints or allegations, evidence reviewed by the investigation team suggests that the District’s review did not go far enough and/or the manner in which the District addressed the complaints or allegations lacked follow up or oversight of directives given. While the District received complaints regarding student athletes across multiple years concerning alleged improper conduct of the Kranicks, the District continued their annual appointment as coaches.”

The report, specifically, noted examples of the mistreatment.

“The allegations were similar to other parents’ complaints such as overtraining causing injury, placement of inserts in sneakers without parental consent, poor communication with the Kranicks and what they described as ‘weigh ins’ before and after practice,” according to the report.

Statement Regarding Athletic Program Review Report

Superintendent Dr. Michael Patton issued the following statement:

“On October 4, 2023, the Saratoga Springs City School District received from a third party a copy of a communication from a group identifying itself as Safe Athletics For Everyone (“SAFE”). This communication was not provided directly to the District by SAFE or its counsel.  This and subsequent communications outlined complaints allegedly made over approximately 35 years against a small number of coaches who have worked in the District’s athletic program in a limited number of sports. The SAFE communications criticized the District for a “lack of response” with respect to these complaints and alleged “a history of abusive coaching at Saratoga High School that has been allowed and ignored.” 

“The Board of Education took immediate action and on October 24, 2023, engaged the law firm Harris Beach PLLC to conduct a thorough, independent investigation of the allegations contained in those communications. The Board charged the firm with: (1) identifying the allegations made, (2) determining if the District was aware of the allegations and (3) if so, determining what the District did to investigate and/or respond to the allegations. The firm advised the District that it would take the time required to conduct a thoughtful, thorough, and first-rate examination.

“Throughout the investigation, the District provided thousands of pages of records and fully cooperated with the investigators, including arranging for interviews of current and past employees of the District familiar with the allegations recited by SAFE. The investigation, which spanned several months, was thorough and complete. The District asked its employees to cooperate fully with the investigation. We thank them for doing so.  

“Harris Beach has now concluded its independent review and submitted a final report to the District. We are sharing that report with the community. The report has been redacted only to protect the privacy of some of the individuals interviewed and to remove, pursuant to legal requirements, any personnel-specific consequences that may have resulted from any specific situation.

“In response to the allegations made between 2015 and 2022 against coaches in four of the five sports reviewed, the investigation found that the District “timely and appropriately responded” to the complaints of which it was aware, and that in some cases, the District took remedial action against coaches up to and including discontinuance of the coaching appointment where warranted. 

“With respect to a fifth sport – cross country and track and field – the investigative report concluded that most, but not all, complaints made between 1989 and the mid-2010s were investigated, and the District took multiple actions regarding the coaches in this sport including counseling and formal discipline. In a few instances, the report determined that there was insufficient follow-through and oversight of the recommended corrective actions.

“In every aspect of our daily responsibility to educate young people, we strive for the highest standards. Our students’ health, safety and welfare are – and always have been – the paramount interest and primary focus of the District and its administrators and board members past and present. The failure to sufficiently and comprehensively investigate and respond to some of the complaints made over the 35-year period reviewed was contrary to the District’s best intentions.   

“Educating and attending to the wellbeing of our students and student athletes is an awesome responsibility and one that depends upon trust. It is important to everyone involved in our athletic program that our community has confidence in the program’s integrity and excellence. We owe this not only to our students and parents, but also to our coaches, the overwhelming majority of whom give generously of themselves and care deeply about their athletes’ wellbeing. 

“The District is proud to have thousands of students participating in more than 100 sports annually. The few founded complaints raised in the SAFE documents appear to be exceptions, not the rule. Indeed, during the months in which this investigation was conducted, the District received a large volume of correspondence from past and present student-athletes and their parents praising our athletic program, including the efforts of coaches who were the subject of some of the complaints investigated.

“We are determined to use the results of this investigation and the report’s findings to make our strong athletic program even better. Accordingly, the District will be initiating the following remedial actions:

“With assistance from the Connecticut Association of Schools – Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), who are acknowledged experts in the review and improvement of education-based athletic programs, we will:

develop and deploy an intensive review of our athletic program intended to obtain input from student-athletes, parents and coaches through surveys and focus groups, and to analyze program  strengths, weaknesses, improvement opportunities and recommendations for continued success;

undertake a global review of our coaches’ internal guidelines, policies and practices pertaining to topics including but not limited to athletic training, promotion of academic achievement, teaching and modeling good sportsmanship and appropriate behavior, character development, ethics, values, and living a healthy and drug free lifestyle;

review our athletic program’s overall administrative structure, policies, procedures, and staffing practices;

consult with the CAIC in researching best practices with regard to each topic above and develop Districtwide standards for adoption into our Coaches Handbook and other athletic program policies;

develop and implement mechanisms to ensure that ongoing, effective, and publicly-transparent program evaluation occurs, and that our Coaches Handbook and other athletic program policies always reflect industry best practices; and

(the Superintendent will) specifically examine District policy pertaining to the monitoring of any future corrective action(s) taken against coaches and will recommend policy changes intended to ensure follow-through and oversight.

“We will monitor progress on these remedial actions and report on key stages of their implementation at future meetings of the Board of Education. To the extent that the findings issued in the Harris Beach report and the remedial actions listed above may lead to changes in coaching personnel in any of our athletic programs, District Administration will handle those matters in accordance with our human resources practices and policies as well as applicable laws and regulations.”

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