When it comes to football, Central Catholic High School has a lot to cheer about.
The Rams—with a long tradition of winning—finished the season with 12 wins and just one loss while outscoring opponents by a 3-to-1 ratio. And on Dec. 6, Central Catholic crushed Tigard High School in the 6A championship 49-0—giving the Rams their second state title in a row.
Off the field, however,there's plenty about the football team that Central Catholic doesn't want to celebrate.
On Nov. 24, Central Catholic President John Harrington announced that the program's freshman coach, Jay Wallace, would not return next year. Harrington made the announcement after WW reported Wallace had been fired from David Douglas High School in 1997 following allegations of sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old female student ("Off-Field Pursuits," WW, Nov. 19, 2014). Harrington had been the David Douglas principal who investigated Wallace—but at Central Catholic kept Wallace in his coaching job.
WW has now learned that a second Central Catholic football coach faced allegations of sexual misconduct with a student at a local public school.
In 2010, Portland police questioned the coach, Jon Taylor, after he exchanged sexually explicit text messages with a 19-year-old developmentally disabled student from the Parkrose School District in Northeast Portland. Taylor worked at Parkrose as an educational aide.
According to a police report, Taylor told an officer he sent the texts, including a photo of his erect penis. Law enforcement officials didn't charge Taylor, but he left Parkrose two days after the report.
Today, Taylor tells WW the allegations of misconduct are untrue. Taylor says the student sent him sexual messages but that he didn't reciprocate. Told the police report includes an admission from him, Taylor says, "I'm not sure why they wrote that."
Still, this second incident raises new questions about Central Catholic's vetting of its football coaches—especially in light of the Catholic Church's history with sexual misconduct and a pledge from the Portland archdiocese to protect children from abuse. It also points to statewide gaps in Oregon's system for keeping tabs on coaches accused of such misconduct.
Harrington tells WW he was unaware of Taylor's history at Parkrose. He said Central Catholic performed a background check in June 2010 before the school hired Taylor, and the report cleared him for employment. "To have potentially two issues just shocks me," Harrington says.
Jim Mountain, chairman of Central Catholic's board of trustees, echoed Harrington's unease. "We're concerned about any reports of impropriety by our coaches, or our faculty or staff," Mountain tells WW. "Particularly at Central, with its connection to the Catholic Church, we really take this stuff seriously."
A parent of a Central Catholic football player—who declined to be identified out of fear her son would be ostracized—says she is disappointed by the school's failure to tell parents about Wallace's departure in November. She says that suggests Central Catholic would prefer to ignore what happened.
"These are the people who are teaching our children not only football but how to interact with the world," she says. "I think the community needs to step forward and address the issue head on."
Taylor, 50, was a football standout at Beaverton High School in the early 1980s who went on to play for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He coached the Parkrose High School football team from 2001 until the beginning of the 2003 season, when he was replaced after a few games. Taylor resigned as coach for reasons that were never made public.
Parkrose Superintendent Karen Fischer Gray declined to release Taylor's personnel records, saying they are exempt from disclosure under the state's public records law.
State law allows a public body to release a personnel file, and can require its release when "the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public employee's interest in confidentiality," according to the state's public records manual.
Parkrose officials did confirm Taylor left the school district, where he had worked for 15 years, on March 12, 2010, two days after police questioned him.
On March 10, 2010, a woman reported that she had evidence Taylor and a Parkrose student had exchanged sexually explicit texts. According to the report, the woman was an ex-girlfriend of Taylor's who had discovered the images on his old cellphone.
The messages included a photo of an erect penis sent from Taylor's phone to the student, and images of a vagina sent from the student's phone to Taylor.
According to the report, Taylor asked the student not to tell anyone about the photos, but then told her she was "cute" and that he wanted to see "the whole thing."
"How about a new picture so I can see more," Taylor wrote in one text message, according to Kulp's report. "I like it."
When confronted by the police officer, Taylor admitted sending the texts and the photo of his penis.
"Stupid, so stupid," the report quotes Taylor as saying. "I knew as soon as I hit send I made a huge mistake."
The officer found no evidence that Taylor had exchanged sexual messages with the student when she was under 18, which would have made the act a felony.
When the officer contacted the student, she admitted sending the texts and sharing the images with Taylor. She told Kulp she and Taylor had never had any sexual contact in person, something Taylor had also said during his police interview.
"I asked [her] if Jon had sent her a picture of his penis," the officer wrote. "[She] kinda laughed and said 'yes.' I asked her if she sent a picture of her vagina to Jon. [She] first said, 'no,' but then said 'yes.' I asked her why they were doing this. [She] said 'I don't know, fun.'"
The officer bagged Taylor's phone as evidence and referred the report to senior officers and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office.
Senior deputy district attorney Travis Sewell says the DA's office never received a copy of the report. That might have been because the young woman was legally an adult at the time and Portland police may have determined no crime had occurred, says Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.
Simpson also says records show the report also went to Multnomah County's Developmental Disabilities Office for a possible abuse investigation. County spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti says she couldn't confirm whether the county received the report, or if there had been an investigation.
Taylor says he wasn't fired by Parkrose but instead resigned to protect his family. He says the district faulted him for failing to report receiving the texts. "There was nothing legally I did wrong," he says. "From the school's point of view, I didn't make the right decision in not reporting it."
Taylor joined Central Catholic's program as a defensive line coach in summer 2010, just months after leaving Parkrose. He coached the varsity and junior varsity defensive lines during the championship-winning 2014 season, according to the school's website.
Harrington says Taylor underwent Central Catholic's standard background check, which means his name and Social Security number went to an outside company for vetting. He says it turned up nothing about the allegations at Parkrose.
Harrington says Central Catholic has made changes since Taylor's hiring. On July 1, 2010, the Oregon Legislature required schools to seek employment records from schools where a job applicant previously worked. Oregon schools are now required to disclose all "substantiated" abuse claims or ongoing investigations of abuse claims. Harrington says Central Catholic now seeks that information for all new hires.
The Archdiocese of Portland strengthened its background checks of employees in August, requiring for the first time that employees resubmit to background checks every three years. Before the change, employees underwent background checks only when they were hired or switched positions, says Cathy Shannon, director of the archdiocese's Office of Child Protection/Victim Assistance.
But the system for checking coaches' criminal histories still isn't perfect. The background checks pull up arrests and convictions, but they don't reveal accusations that aren't prosecuted, Shannon says.
Oregon does a better job keeping tabs on teachers than coaches.
The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, the state agency that oversees teachers in public and private schools, can revoke the license of a teacher who sexually abuses a student even if no criminal charges are brought, says Vickie Chamberlain, the agency's executive director. The agency can also enter disciplined teachers' names in a national database, flagging them in case they try to seek jobs elsewhere. (As an education aide, Taylor was not licensed by the state.)
No such system exists for coaches, who aren't required to obtain teaching licenses. The Oregon School Activities Association certifies all coaches in the state, but certification deals with training, not criminal background checks, says Brad Garrett, assistant executive director of OSAA.
Neither Taylor nor Wallace, the other Central Catholic coach under scrutiny, has faced new allegations while at the school.
Peter Janci, a Portland lawyer with O'Donnell Clark & Crew who has brought sex-abuse cases against the Catholic Church, says Central Catholic parents should demand that more is done to protect kids.
"It's very, very concerning to hear about multiple staff members having this type of background at the same institution in 2014," Janci says. "It sounds like there's a lot of work to be done."