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updated: 5/2/2016 10:18 AM

Lester: IHSA lacks guidelines on coaching abuse

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  • Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse for his sentencing last week.

    Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse for his sentencing last week.
    Associated Press

 
 

It's been about 40 years since the sexual abuse several former Yorkville High School wrestlers say occurred when they were alone with their coach, Dennis Hastert, after practices and on trips.

But even now, the state's governing body of high school sports, the Illinois High School Association, has no guidelines in place that aim to prevent such abuses from occurring.

"That is up to each school," IHSA spokesman Matt Troha wrote this week in response to my questions about policies the organization might have in place regarding travel or other one-on-one time between coaches and students.

Many youth organizations have established strict policies in recent years. The Boy Scouts of America, for instance, require two adults on all trips and outings, the Youth Protection section of its website notes. One-on-one contact between adults and scouts is prohibited.

Stories of abuses of athletes by coaches prompted a May 29, 2015, report from the federal Government Accountability Office, oddly enough, on the very same day former U.S. House Speaker Hastert was indicted on federal charges related to sexual misconduct during his coaching days.

The report notes federal Title IX laws exist to protect students from sexual harassment and abuse at school. But it goes on to note that the onus for ensuring students' safety is ultimately at the state level.

But research shows that power dynamics between coaches and athletes makes athletes more vulnerable and less likely to speak up about abuses that occur. Former Yorkville wrestler Scott Cross, the only living person to identify himself as a Hastert abuse victim, is a case in point. Noting "Coach Hastert was revered in Yorkville," Cross said he never spoke of the abuse until Hastert's indictment last summer.

Déjà vu

"I thought I had read this before -- turns out I had," colleague and political editor Mike Riopell noted Friday after Naperville officials took steps to remind residents that Hassert Boulevard is not, in fact, named after Hastert, but after a family that's lived in the area for generations. A 2006 Daily Herald article notes someone scrawled "pedophile" across one of former state Rep. Brent Hassert's campaign signs for re-election, a move the Romeoville Republican assumed was a case of mistaken identity between himself and Hastert, who faced criticism at the time for his handling of a sex scandal involving inappropriate behavior by former U.S. Rep. Robert Foley. Read more in our Daily Herald story here.

Next party?

Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon

A Park Ridge man -- the 2006 Republican opponent of Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky -- tells me he's making a bid for president as a Libertarian. Michael Shannon, a 44-year-old father of two, points to the mudslinging contest that's become the Republican presidential primary as further evidence that the two-party system is broken. Shannon says he plans to travel to the party's convention in Orlando, Florida, later this month to try to convince delegates that the Libertarian Party can expand its ranks in the current climate if it focuses on attracting "Americans caught in the middle."

Shannon didn't accept any campaign donations in his 2006 campaign against Schakowsky and came away with 25 percent of the vote.

The Chicago Bandits
The Chicago Bandits -
It takes a village

It took a village, quite literally, to bring an impoverished girls' softball team from the South Bronx to Rosemont to play at the home field of the Chicago Bandits last week. The story of New York's Lady Tigers -- who practice on concrete -- caught the attention of two rival travel softball teams -- the Chicago Fireworks and the Windy City Thunder. The Chicago teams, businesses and Rosemont officials joined the campaign to help pay for transportation, hotel accommodations and the stadium. Rosemont Mayor Brad Stevens says restaurants, including Bub City, even stepped forward to feed the team and beloved coach, Chris Astacio, who is fighting cancer for a second time.

Take a look

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is hosting a free VIP screening of its documentary on the Forest Preserves 100th anniversary Wednesday at Navy Pier's IMAX Theater, weeks before the one-hour film's scheduled premier on WYCC.

The 5:30 p.m. screening will be attended by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, forest preserve Superintendent Arnold Randall and several country commissioners.

Among the forest preserves' oddities, I learned recently, is a resident watchmen program in which the forest preserve district rents homes on its property at bargain prices to staffers who keep watch over the land.

Winemaker Andres Basso oversees bottles coming off the line to be boxed up at Lynfred Winery in Roselle.
  Winemaker Andres Basso oversees bottles coming off the line to be boxed up at Lynfred Winery in Roselle. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Summer whites

Lynfred Winery just bottled a new white this week, a Seyval Blanc made exclusively from Illinois grapes. Head winemaker Rodrigo Gonzalez calls it "crisp and fresh with pineapple and citrus notes." Curious? You can go for a taste at Lynfred's locations in Naperville, Wheeling, Wheaton and Roselle. I once visited two in the same day, showing up at the wrong location for a wedding shower of a best pal who had asked if I'd serve as her maid of honor. Not my finest hour.

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