When Wes Armstrong stepped down as head coach of the Battle Ground High School boys basketball team in May, he said it was because he had lost the passion for coaching.
But two days before Armstrong stepped down on May 17, an investigation determined Armstrong had failed to properly notify Battle Ground Public Schools administrators of an alleged hazing incident at a 2016 summer basketball camp in Spokane.
On May 15, Battle Ground Public Schools was presented with the findings of an investigation requested by the district into whether Armstrong had properly investigated and reported possible hazing at the 2016 camp, which members of the Battle Ground boys basketball program attended.
The investigation by Clear Risk Solutions’ pre-litigation program involved interviews with seven Battle Ground district employees and members of the coaching staff, including Armstrong. Investigator Alan Key, who authored the report, also interviewed parents of the players involved and some of the players themselves.
The Columbian obtained a copy of the investigation’s findings through a public records request.
The report specifically does not fault Armstrong for improper supervision, noting that whatever occurred took place in the dorm room the boys were supposed to be in.
The alleged hazing incident took place on June 26, 2016, in a dorm room at Gonzaga University. The report says Armstrong, after becoming aware of a possible incident, talked with four of the five boys in the room.
“A serious allegation was made to Coach Armstrong, and the players involved never denied it occurred, although they minimized their involvement,” Key wrote. “A report to the high school administration at the very minimum, and possibly law enforcement, was warranted. Coach Armstrong did not make either of these reports.”
The report did not say exactly how the district learned of the alleged hazing before it ordered the investigation.
No criminal charges resulted from the alleged hazing. Battle Ground athletic director Matt Stanfill said he could not comment on whether the investigation had any bearing on why Armstrong stepped down as head coach.
Armstrong works as a special education teacher at Battle Ground High School. Reached by phone, he did not address whether the investigation was the main reason for him stepping aside.
“After the investigation concluded, I decided the boys basketball program needed a new vision and change of direction,” Armstrong said. “It was at that time I decided to step aside and resign as head basketball coach at Battle Ground High School.”
The report says the involved players, whose names were not disclosed in the report, were not forthcoming during the investigation.
“(They) were afraid they would be severely disciplined for admitting to engaging in the inappropriate behaviors and later for lying or failing to tell the entire truth to Coach Armstrong,” the report said. “There was also a perception that any involvement in this investigation would or could affect their playing time or position on the basketball team. For these reasons, the boys, more likely than not, did not disclose the behaviors that took place in the Gonzaga dorm room.”
The report added, “it is unlikely the district will ever know for sure exactly what took place in the Gonzaga dorm room.”
The report concludes that in failing to report the allegations to his supervisor, district administration or law enforcement, Armstrong failed to follow Battle Ground Public Schools’ policy regarding harassment, intimidation and bullying.