Loophole prevented Central High School track coach from being charged with sex crime

Senate bill aims to expand definition of sexual contact

UPDATE (Monday): The coach has since been identified as Thad Caldwell after the state Department of Education revoked his teaching certificate last week. This result follows an investigation into allegations made by several students.

Monday afternoon, the bill passed unanimously through the state Senate.

PIERRE, S.D. – Senate Bill 81 proposes three words be added to the definition of sexual contact. According to Senator Helene Duhamel (R – District 32), those three words would have allowed charges to be filed against a Central High School track coach for massaging young girls a certain way.

The current definition of sexual contact delineates specific parts of the body. The terms in the law limit the definition to breasts of a female or genitalia or anus of any person “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of either party.” Senate Bill 81 expands the definition to include the buttocks or inner thighs of any person.

Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, Alaska, and Hawaii already include these terms in their statutes.

“A cross-country coach was taking young girls into his hotel room, individually having them lay on his bed face down and he was giving them massages, in particular of those private areas and the girls were feeling uncomfortable,” said Duhamel.

She says that because the definition of sexual contact is so strict, charges were never filed.

“And so that’s why we’re making this change in the law so that this couldn’t happen,” said Duhamel. “It’s a very simple but meaningful change to strengthen our laws and will make a difference for a lot of people.”

The bill passed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary hearing Thursday morning. A family member of a victim and a Pennington County Sheriff’s Office investigator were among those who testified. The incidents were brought to light when a “young lady spoke up after learning the coach had been doing this to other girls, one at a time.” Four students have come forward since.

According to the investigator, the coach had also made multiple inappropriate statements to the students like telling them the massages will “help them run better” and suggesting that girls delay their menstrual cycles to be better athletes.

The coach was not identified during the hearing. According to Sen. Duhamel, the man will not be publicly identified pending an investigation with the Department of Education. She adds that once the allegations were made to the Rapid City Area Schools, the district moved quickly, but could not comment on the time period in which events occurred.

NewsCenter1 reached out to Rapid City Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon for further information regarding the coach’s identification, status and years of employment, and what actions were taken after learning about the allegations:

“Whenever a concern of this nature about a staff member is brought to us, we treat it very seriously. We immediately put the employee on leave, investigate, work with law enforcement where applicable, and then take appropriate action.”

Dr. Simon added the following after this article was originally published:

“The Rapid City Area School District holds its employees to higher standards of conduct than that detailed in the state criminal code, as detailed in its Staff Ethics policy (GBC) and applicable code of ethics.  Allegations, like those detailed in the news story, are investigated and appropriate action is taken.  The person referenced in the news story is no longer employed by the District, or serving in a volunteer capacity. “

The bill was deferred by the Senate to Monday for debate and a vote. NewsCenter1 will continue to follow up as this story develops.

This article has been updated to correct the department conducting the investigation to denote the Department of Education instead of Department of Social Services. 

Categories: Crime, Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News