An unstated allegation leads to an unexplained resignation

Rumors can be destructive. We won’t print them.

But it can also be destructive to have a gaping hole in the middle of a news story.

We wrote last week that the Voorheesville School Board had accepted the resignation from the man who had coached girls’ varsity basketball for a decade, Robert Baron.

Two weeks ago, we had heard concerns about the way Coach Baron had treated one of his players so our New Scotland reporter, Sean Mulkerrin, had repeatedly called Baron, the district’s athletic director, and the schools’ superintendent.

The only answer we got was from Superintendent Brian Hunt who said, “Right now, we’re investigating a situation. That’s all I can tell you.”

Last week, the only reason given for Baron’s resignation was one word on the special-meeting agenda: “personal.”

After the vote, the school board president, Doreen Saia, said, “Youth sports is enormously important … We care very, very much about what happens to your children, and this team.”

She also said the board was “faced with some difficult issues” and concluded, “At the end of the day, these girls deserve our best — period.”

While we agree that students — whether on the playing field or in the classroom — deserve the board’s best, we’re puzzled about what situation was investigated and what the board determined.

The public deserves to know.

The rumors that are swirling in this era when so many female victims of sexual assault are coming forward — one of them is swimmer Diana Nyad who was 14 when, she says, she was sexually assaulted by her coach, a pillar of the community — may very well be unfair to  Coach Baron.

The truth is often best known for all parties involved.

What does the school district’s secrecy teach the girls on the Voorheesville basketball team? If something was wrong in the way one of them was treated, do they feel diminished by the district’s lack of candidness?

Over a century ago, Louis Brandeis, who became a United States Supreme Court justice, made his now-famous statement — “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” — in an article titled “What Publicity Can Do,” published in Harper’s Weekly.

The entire sentence reads, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

Publicity” in the first part of the last century was akin to what we mean by “transparency” today.

Brandeis wrote in a letter that he saw “What Publicity Can Do” as a companion piece to the influential article he co-authored, “The Right to Privacy,” published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890. Brandeis wrote that he had been thinking “about the wickedness of people shielding wrongdoers and passing them off (or at least allowing them to pass themselves off) as honest men.”

We believe that sunlight, in both the metaphoric and actual sense, does act as a disinfectant.

We urge the school district to tell the public the reason for the resignation. Not just because the school district residents pay the coach’s salary. Not just because a coach holds a public position.

But because it’s the right thing to do. It would let the young women on the basketball team — and the other impressionable students who attend Voorheesville schools — know that their concerns are taken seriously. It would liberate Robert Baron from whatever untrue rumors are circulating. It would build the public’s trust in its school system.

A resident, a friend of Baron, who spoke at the meeting after the board accepted Baron’s resignation said he was “disappointed in how you handled the whole thing.” He also said, “These are good people on both sides.”

We’re disappointed, too, and we’d like to know what the two sides were and how precisely the district handled its investigation and how the board arrived at its decision.

Let the sun shine in.


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