Students roam the halls of Santa Barbara High School where a coach was recently arrested for sleeping with one his players

Paul Wellman (file)

Students roam the halls of Santa Barbara High School where a coach was recently arrested for sleeping with one his players

S.B. High Softball Coach Arrested for Sex with Student

Is the Latest Case Another Isolated Incident or Part of a Troublesome Trend?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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While they haven’t publicly announced it, there is real concern among some law enforcement officials that the Santa Barbara Unified School District has a problem on its hands. For the third time in recent years, a district coach has been arrested for sexual misconduct with an underage player. The latest incident involving 38-year-old Vic Alvarez, the girls softball coach at Santa Barbara High School, echoes Justin Sell’s case from 2013 as well as the most recent prosecution of Peter Jeschke in 2011.

Alvarez was booked May 14 in County Jail on a single count of “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.” He was cited and released and appeared in court last week, but his arraignment was delayed as the District Attorney’s Office considers if and when to file charges. Alvarez, a Santa Barbara High School graduate with relatives in two local law enforcement agencies, started working as a campus security guard in 2011 before he became a walk-on softball coach in 2012.

According district spokesperson Brian Tanguay, the district started investigating Alvarez during the spring semester “based upon unconfirmed reports of irregular behavior.” Tanguay said Alvarez was then placed on paid administrative leave on April 24 “for conduct unrelated to the current charges.” The nature of that conduct and the described “irregular behavior” isn’t clear. On May 6, the district filed a report with the police department and fired Alvarez from his coaching position, “but [Alvarez] remains on administrative leave from his other position in accordance with legal requirements,” Tanguay said.

After a June 4 court hearing, Alvarez’s attorney, Josh Webb, spoke openly about the matter. Noting several times that the facts in the case have yet to be borne out, Webb said it’s his understanding that Alvarez and the female player, who graduated last Thursday, allegedly started their physical relationship in late February when she was a month or two away from turning 18. He explained the pair remain together and have the blessings of the teen’s parents.

While it was well-known among team members that the two were seeing each other, one or more of the players reportedly felt the teen received unfair extra playing time and issued a complaint with school administration. Webb said Alvarez’s current charge, which can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, is not an offense that requires sex-offender registration. “It’s a technical violation of law,” he went on, describing Alvarez as “a single man coaching a team who met a gal. He didn’t know if she was 18 or not. … He’s in love with her.”

Problem of Perception?

News of Alvarez’s arrest comes on the heels of reports this month that longtime AYSO coach Jose Diaz of Buellton has been charged with having sex with a teenage girl and that Santa Maria high school basketball coach Brian Hook is being prosecuted for an inappropriate relationship with a female student. These stories fit into the seemingly nonstop barrage of countrywide media broadcasts that detail illicit acts committed by teachers and coaches with their students and players. Opinions differ over why these types of crimes are — or merely seem — more common.

Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig, a member of the DA Office’s Sexual Assault and Vulnerable Victims Unit, said “media coverage, the advent of the Internet, and the public’s access to information make the appearance that these cases have occurred more in recent years.” But that is simply not the case, he said. When asked if law enforcement agencies are more prone to distribute press releases about teacher/coach sex crimes compared to other statutory rape or child molestation incidents, Ladinig said not necessarily, “but because the possibility of educators or coaches having continued access to other children and/or other victims, sometimes press releases are necessary to inform and protect the public.”

DA Joyce Dudley, whose career has been defined by a number of high-profile sex crime cases, said coaches and teachers don’t abuse or molest children at a higher rate than other professions. “If there is one thing I have learned in the past 30-plus years in this field,” she said, “it is that no occupation, sexual preference, socio-economic condition, or cultural background is either more or less likely to abuse children.” Therefore, she went on, “It is incumbent upon all of us to be vigilant in our desire to protect them.” Dudley said her office doesn’t categorize offenders by profession, so data on total coach/teacher cases wasn’t immediately available.

Lieutenant Kelly Moore, a lead investigator in the Sheriff’s Office, agreed that “there is a fair amount of public interest in these types of cases. … It has to do with the shock and awe of a trusted relationship gone south.” Moore said the majority of statutory rape cases stem from a relationship between two young people of similar age that took a turn for the worse — a pair of 16- and 19-year-olds, he gave as an example, and “maybe the mom didn’t like the kid.” But no matter what the victim believes, Moore went on, he or she can’t give legal consent under California law. While a number of states have lowered the age to consent to 17 or 16 years old, California’s remains at 18.

Moore said he’s never heard of a victim’s parents endorsing the illegal acts and that it’s impossible to stereotype offenders by universally common traits. “From our perspective, these guys are predators,” he said. “Are they a wolf, dog, bear, lion? We can’t always say, but they’re all predators.” The degree of menace varies case by case, he went on, and some suspects “simply shouldn’t have let themselves get in that position.” Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover declined to release Alvarez’s May 14 booking photo, saying to do so would be an unlawful disclosure of his criminal history.

In the Field

The Santa Barbara Independent spoke to a number of Santa Barbara Unified School District coaches and athletic directors for this story, and while all of them wished to remain anonymous, they said the dynamic that develops between a player and a coach is a unique one that can reach levels of trust and appropriate intimacy comparable to the closeness of child and parent. Students are often around their coaches more than their teachers — sometimes for four years of high school that includes after-hours practices, road games, and so on — and sometimes feel more comfortable opening up to them than anyone else. “It’s an extremely high level of trust, so when a person violates it, it’s really painful,” one coach said.

Another source said the district does a commendable job of educating coaches and staff about appropriate boundaries, and teaches them how to avoid potentially troublesome situations like a coach being alone with a player or being asked for a ride home. Allegations are investigated swiftly and thoroughly, they said, and the district has zero tolerance for any misconduct. “There are no second chances,” one source said. Another said he fired a coach simply because the coach made the players uncomfortable. “I hated doing it, but kids feeling safe is the most important thing.”

Many of the people interviewed said there have always been inappropriate relationships between coaches and players, but school districts across the country are simply “dealing with the situations now as they always should have been.” Background checks and fingerprinting weed out “most of the weirdos,” one athletic director said, “but there are always people with bad intentions. … We can do everything right, and it can still happen. It’s our worst nightmare.”

District officials described their applicant screening process as “careful and rigorous.” The district currently employs 1,946 people — including part-time — and, right now, it has 199 coaches who are not teachers. (Teachers are given the first priority on coaching positions, and those who coach receive stipends.) No data was available on how many coaches are also certified employees. Walk-on coaches like Alvarez are seasonal employees who must sign a number of contracts like nondiscrimination forms, child abuse reporting requirements, and ethical conduct notices.

All applicants undergo a background check, which includes Live Scan fingerprinting, and they’re required to get an Activity Supervisor Clearance Certificate from the State of California, which requires California Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI fingerprint clearance. If a person is hired but then gets arrested, the district is immediately notified by the DOJ, and a decision to terminate is based on whether or not the offense violated the California Education Code. Direct oversight takes place at the school, and supervision of coaches is the responsibility of each campus’s athletic director. Sexual relations between a teacher or coach and a student are prohibited, even if the student is 18 or older.

Action Before Abuse

Yesenia Curiel with the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, which is contacted by police every time a rape or molestation in the city is investigated, said her organization regularly speaks to students about sexual assault and what it means to give legal consent. It’s her opinion that while more statutory rape cases are being reported by victims and their friends and family because of better education and support systems, the overall incident rate is also on the rise.

Curiel said much of the information passed on to students during her presentations has to do with power dynamics and the fact that a sexual assault is more likely to be committed by a person close to the victim. When a young teenager enters high school, she went on, they are surrounded by more and more adults, and they’re taught that while they need to be respectful and cooperative with authority figures, “you still have the right to say no.” Coaches in particular engender deep feelings of trust, and players often feel “they want nothing but good things” for them, Curiel said.

While in-class discussions take place multiple times a year — Curiel said she was recently invited by an English teacher to talk about a course text that contained explicit material — the Rape Crisis Center is in early discussions about offering more sit-downs with faculty and coaches. It’s also coordinating with other agencies and nonprofits for revamped and more robust initiatives. The district has always been receptive to such outreach, Curiel said.

Supposedly consensual cases can be especially challenging, Curiel explained. “We try to educate survivors about the law and the dynamics of a healthy relationship,” she said. “We give them examples of what is healthy, what is unhealthy, and explain what is happening to them.” Case workers offer teens practical scenarios of how the relationship would be problematic, noting how public dates would be difficult if not impossible and that the normal activities of an appropriate teenage relationship — like going to sports games and dances — would not be an option. They’re also educated about how a couple should be on an equal footing with equal power and that two people of very different ages have very different mind-sets and values.

When working with parents, Curiel continued, she talks about the long-term effects of abuse on a child’s development, noting that all members of her staff are bilingual, and part of their role is to educate newly immigrated cultures about California laws. “Sometimes there might be a challenge between traditions and beliefs and the law,” she said. In her experience, reports of abuse or statutory rape at schools are most often made directly to counselors or other staff members who then contact law enforcement.

Traditional education strategies like lectures on “good touch, bad touch” are still valuable and helpful, but the Rape Crisis Center and other groups are always looking at ways to better reach children and teens before they become victims. Luckily, Curiel said, Santa Barbara is rich in such resources, and students are often receptive to the message. And more and more, the state’s age of consent is becoming general knowledge among younger age groups.

While Curiel’s organization offers self-defense training, it also focuses on assertiveness and confidence skills to help teens protect themselves. “That can be more helpful than knowing where to kick somebody,” Curiel said.

If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual abuse, or if you need immediate counseling, contact the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center's 24-hour hotline at (805) 564-3696.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Please clarify that the accuser in the case of Jose Diaz has NOTHING to do with AYSO, nothing to do with soccer, sport, etc. He was never a coach to the girl and no AYSO player has been a victim.

Cranium (anonymous profile)
June 10, 2014 at 9:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Webb said it’s his understanding that Alvarez and the female player, who graduated last Thursday, allegedly started their physical relationship in late February when she was a month or two away from turning 18. He explained the pair remain together and have the blessings of the teen’s parents."

So the biggest problem in this case is the girl got some special treatment on the tennis team?

Why is it every time an older man dates a younger girl do we have to assume it is an abusive situation?

I wonder if she will break up with him now that he's lost his job?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 12:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This 'child' would be prosecuted as an 'adult' for any number of crimes so fast your head would spin. This 'child' has been legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle and hold employment for quite a while now. Yet this 'child' is deemed incapable of saying 'no'? Why is it that older minors are given great privileges and responsibility but turn to mindless drones, children, infants when it comes to their willing and voluntary decisions regarding their own sexuality?

Predator? Child Molestation? Do these people hear themselves? To use these terms is an insult to actual children who are abused. On what planet (other than half the states in the US) is a 16, 17 year old person a 'child'?

An inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a mature student is just that - inappropriate. This guy should not be a teacher / coach. But to prosecute him and possibly incarcerate him and possibly ruin his life with lifetime sex offender registration is not good use of public funds and not something I want my tax dollars to pay for.

I am tired of my hard earned tax money enforcing a moral code that dates back to Victorian times.

malefitz (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 2:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

... and in the interest of good reporting this article should have pointed out that by far the group most likely to sexually abuse a (small) child is close family member. Dad, Stepdad, Grandpa, Uncle, Mom's boyfriend, etc.

When looking at professional segments, do research sex abuse and law enforcement. If any profession has extremely high offense rates if not the highest, per capita, it is that.

malefitz (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 2:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How is releasing a booking photo an "unlawful disclosure of [someone's] criminal history"? Isn't this a matter of public record? If not, then wouldn't releasing ANY booking photo be disclosing the criminal history for the crime that person is booked for? The Sheriff's Department releases suspected sexual predator booking photos all the time. Why not this one, but others are okay?

Am I missing something?

ooshea (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 8:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The legal age is 18 period if it was worth all that he should have waited..

Byrd (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 8:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This guy lives his mom, doesn't he?

SB_Guy (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 8:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"The legal age is 18 period if it was worth all that he should have waited.."

Yes, and the trains should all run on time or else the train engineers should be executed.

What happens on a person's 18th birthday that is so magical that turns their relationship from what you believe is a rapist predator and a victim to a lawful one? There are plenty of states in the US and other countries where the age of consent is 16 and on top of that the parents condone the relationship so it really isn't any of our business. I've seen no reason why a criminal case should be pursued here.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Once again SBPD focusses on the wrong issue.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why is Christina's picture featured in a sex abuse story?

ahem (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Unfortunately this problem started a while back. He had a student kicked off the team because he thought she "rated" him out to his then girlfriend. He also has a history of verbally abuse on students on the te he was coaching. Girls recorded his verbal anuse and showed the evidence to the principal and other oficials.

SBGirlie10 (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 12:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We've had more than one child go to the Santa Barbara high schools who participated in athletics. Inappropriate behavior occurred then as it does now and there is a lot of peer pressure among these kids not to say anything. It seems to me that all coaches and school district employees should be required to attend mandatory training provided by the school district on how to coach, work with teenagers, and the possible consequences for inappropriate or harassing sexual conduct. At one UC where I worked, this type of training was mandatory and it was also clearly conveyed that the University would not protect employees legally (e.g. Faculty, Graduate Students, Researchers, and Administration) if misconduct with students was reported/revealed. Whether or not the student was about to turn 18 is irrelevant and the law is the law, That said, the coach violated professional standards and is dealing with the consequences.

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 4:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes the law is the law. And that law applies to anyone who ever had any kind of sexual contact with a person under 18 as there is no special provision in the California Penal Code for a person like a teacher. That means that any person who ever had sex / made out / had any kind of sexually related contact with a person 17 or younger (regardless of whether or not the person was under 18 themselves) exactly as guilty as this teacher.

Would that include you? Your husband / wife / son / daughter / father / mother / etc?

That is the law, and the law is the law.

malefitz (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yep- the law is the law.

As a parent of a enthusiastic sports player- I cannot agree more that a bond is made between coach and player, and to abuse that is beyond punishable.

While I can agree that the under age person plays a part by sometimes, not always- but sometimes participating by flaunting the attention and even encouraging the adult- the adult must refrain. Period.

I can also agree that with the media and internet, cases are more available to read about, I don't think they are happening more often- just are more reported.

I am going to arm my sports enthusiast with an earful when I think its needed.

losolivoslocal (anonymous profile)
June 11, 2014 at 11:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I find it interesting (read:DISGUSTING) that many comments on here are in support of the Coach, are slightly demeaning towards the teenage girls involved and completely blasé about the fact that this older person, who was in a position of authority, took advantage of a younger UNDERAGE person.
38 and 17. What could they possibly have in common??

Misogynists much??? More likely the comments are made by friends of the man arrested and/or the Coach himself.

“It’s a technical violation of law,” he went on, describing Alvarez as “a single man coaching a team who met a gal. He didn’t know if she was 18 or not. … He’s in love with her.”

How disgusting that his lawyer would take such a casual approach and be so blatant about it. The Coach didn't "meet a gal". HE WAS HER COACH. IN HIGH SCHOOL, you pigs! And I call bullsh*t on knowing if she was 18 or not AND on the fact that they're in love.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Bunny (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 12:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

agree losososlocal! The bond that can develop between a coach (I'd also say a teacher) and a player (or a student) is honestly sacred, and built on growing genuine trust. The 38-year-old is an adult, and he cannot betray this trust: he isn't supposed to be for himself or his own needs, but for the player, or student. Even when there's honest mutual attraction, you correctly state "the adult must refrain." Absolutely YES.
And if the player was really almost 18, c'mon, keep it in your pants a few more months. And agree Bunny we can't downplay this as "ah, guys are guys" -- it is a crime, the authorities should prosecute.
Let's be very honest: in this permissive and crazed society, asking these two "to refrain" just sounds quaint. Abstinence? We live in immediate gratification town, right? Yet, Bunny is on point when she rages "HE WAS HER COACH. IN HIGH SCHOOL" !! The violation of the sacred TRUST that has to develop between student and teacher, or player and coach, that is the deepest violation, and he should be tried.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 5:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

agree DavyB, and here is the crux of the violation: "While it was well-known among team members that the two were seeing each other..." So that means it's kinda OK, and where is the administration and the oversight?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 5:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm sorry but "the law is the law" is the absolute worst argument for ANYTHING, the "law" has been used to justify and commit the absolute worst tragedies, atrocities, genocides, mass murders and crimes in all of human history. Never use "the law" to backup your opinion on something, it makes one sound like a Nazi. Instead, try logic, reason, morality, relativity and other ways to persuade people to your viewpoint.

The bottom line is the parents were ok with it and this girl was 2 months from being a (legal) adult, is now an adult and is still in the relationship. Mind your own business. It really shouldn't be anybody's business unless your daughter goes to the school and he is still the coach.

I agree from a moral standpoint the coach should have probably waited until she was out of the sports program to consummate a relationship with her and he should be fired for that - nobody has actually "defended" the coaches actions in the entire comment section...although ironically if this relationship with this girl works out then there likely wouldn't be any more problems but there is no guarantee this will work out for him and I can imagine, understandably, parents might not feel very comfortable with him as coach.. but although he could have he ultimately didn't do anything that warrants criminal prosecution.

"38 and 18, what could they possibly have in common!?"

Gee, I dunno, let me think about that......hmmmmmm....what do they have in common?? Well, from reading the article I honestly can't think of a single thing....hmmmm.. what was he coaching again?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

isn't this enough, loon, when you "agree from a moral standpoint" ? It is about morality as well as about law. Anyway, while there are plenty of problems with "the law" -- in some cases anarchy is worse.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 4:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ooshea - Yes your missing something. What the article fails to mention is that Vic Alvarez's father Vic senior is a Sergeant in The SB County Sheriffs Dept. The other family member I'm not sure about.
Vic Alvarez's photo from a past non related press article. He has the white polo shirt on the left.

NavAiRecon2 (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow DrDan, that's very big of you to admit that in "some" cases anarchy is worse, insinuating conversely that in "some" cases anarchy is better, that is showing some real promise :)

But seriously when are commenters on the Indy all about legislating morality? I was just railing against those calling for this guy to go to jail, there was no evidence any abuse occurred except for his unfair treatment of other girls on the tennis team. I don't think what he did was the biggest moral mis-step in the world, especially considering the outcome (they are still together apparently). It has been said that men have been known to walk thousands of miles and travel entire oceans to be with a woman they love. Stepping on those girls toes who were on the tennis team wasn't right and it was unfair for them, but if they end up happy together I'm pretty sure those other girls will forget about it and I just hope it didn't prevent them from getting into college or stopped them from getting scholarships or affect them in a real, negative way. But if we assume that didn't happen and the worst thing that happened was some girls missed a few high school tennis matches then maybe it will ultimately be worth it for both of them and maybe those girls will forgive them some day. Maybe they will break up or maybe they will get married and have kids, who knows? Why get in the way of other people's happiness, or even their perceived happiness?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 5:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Loonpt, get your info straight. He was a softball coach not tennis. So you think no harm no foul. What about the harm to the other players and their parents? What about the harm to future players or the softball program in general? Thishas to have made the parents and players lose trust and respect for the coaches still there and any future coaches. Why should they feel safe that this isnt going to happen again. Why should they trust a coach? This has consequences for all the innocent people associated with this program. So is it just about two people in love......I think not.

sblocal93101 (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2014 at 10:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This has shades of the song by The Police "Don't stand so close to me".

I'm taking DrDan's side on this one.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 13, 2014 at 12:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This guy is a moron of the highest order. You simply DO NOT get involved with your student or your players. Ever! Heck, you shouldnt even date a subordinate in the professional world let alone an under age person.

I dont care what her parents thought (although it sure is telling of their morals and their culture) I do care that a 38 year old man thought for a moment that it was OK to get involved with a 17yr old and worse, that the 17 yr old was on his team.

What an idiot. Fire him and assure that he is never, ever hired as a coach or a teacher ever again.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
June 13, 2014 at 2:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Loonpt, get your info straight. He was a softball coach not tennis. So you think no harm no foul. What about the harm to the other players and their parents?"

Ok, sorry, wrong sport, same points are valid though.

Yes, he did do some harm and yes I did say I have no problem with him being fired, in fact I discussed that in depth if you read some of my later postings. I already said I don't think what he did was "right" and could have gone about it differently, but I also don't think what he did is necessarily the worst thing in the world because to me it sounds like the worst thing that happened was that some deserving players didn't get enough play time. Unless they missed getting into a better college or a better scholarship, that's really not that big of a deal.

Do I think he belongs in prison? Absolutely not, based on the evidence so far.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 13, 2014 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"What an idiot. Fire him and assure that he is never, ever hired as a coach or a teacher ever again. - iamsomeguyinsb"

Agree 100%.

Prosecute and incarcerate him - absurd!

malefitz (anonymous profile)
June 14, 2014 at 7:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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