Jon Bowerman addresses 509-J board


Husband of accused coach apologizes for scandal

Photo Credit: PIONEER FILE PHOTO - Jon BowermanJon Bowerman offered a public apology at the Monday night School District 509-J Board meeting, in the wake of his wife, Melissa Bowerman, the Madras High School track coach, being arrested on allegations of sexual abuse of a 17-year-old boy, who was on the track team.

“I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Bowerman family for the shame and embarrassment we’ve brought to the community,” Bowerman said, adding, “My phone has been ringing off the hook, and I’ve gotten calls from Europe, and South America. My father’s name (Nike founder Bill Bowerman) is being drug into this, and Melissa never even knew him.”

One call was from a friend who is a drug and alcohol counselor. “She said she had a study that said one out of every 11 students will be sexually abused before they reach maturity. That’s not an excuse – one anywhere is too many. These people are sick, they need help, prayers, and need to be off the street,” Bowerman said.

Of 509-J having two abuse cases in one year (girls basketball coach Mike Osborne arrested in November, and Melissa Bowerman arrested July 21), Jon Bowerman said, “Having two in one year was just a coincidence, not a pattern. I’m personally shocked and crushed by this.”

“I don’t believe (MHS principal) Sarah Braman-Smith and (former athletic director) Rory Oster were remiss. I lived with the woman and I didn’t even know – how was he supposed to know?” Bowerman said.

Bowerman called himself “computer illiterate” but said his two daughters noticed things on Facebook and contacted him. “I became alarmed. My daughter Liz went to the state police and they said to contact a lawyer."

After contacting attorney Tim Gassner, Bowerman said, "I felt I’d taken care of my responsibility by reporting it. In the meantime, the state police picked up more information that the individual was under 18.”

Gassner, who happened to be at the meeting on another matter, added, “To Jon’s credit, he was on the phone to me first thing Monday morning (July 21). I talked to the daughter who had captured pictures on the Internet. I myself am a mandatory child abuse reporter, but Jon’s daughter Liz beat me to the punch and initiated the call to the police.”

Board member Brad Holliday thanked Bowerman for coming, saying, “This is not an easy time for your family.”

Superintendent Rick Molitor noted, “We’ve been getting questions about how this came about, that having it happen twice is unfathomable, and what are we doing about it?”

He said the district will take a three-pronged approach: The district has asked the Oregon Special Districts Association to review current 509-J policies, and it will hire a private firm, New Dawn Securitites, which works with school districts on this very issue.

“They will help us embed proven prevention efforts to reduce sexual misconduct between staff and students,” Molitor said.

Lastly, it will have attorney Bruce Bischoff, who works with school districts, review the recommendations from New Dawn Securities.

Board member Laurie Danzuka said, “We have some very angry parents who don’t want to bring their kids to our schools. We need some reassurance for parents. We need to say what steps we’re doing – not point the blame, but obviously, something’s not being done right. We have a lot of coaches who are not staff.”

Board Chairman Stan Sullivan noted, “We need to be sure the staff is trained as well as the coaches.

Board member Lyle Rehwinkel added, “We need to work with kids and families, too. And if they see something, make sure it’s not going to be tolerated. Exploiting our children is not going to be tolerated and we have to keep our children safe.”