RHAM Coach Accused Of Bullying, Parents Say Otherwise

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HEBRON – Some RHAM high school parents are outraged because they say bullying complaints against a popular coach are false.

But the school district, which includes students in Hebron, Andover and Marlborough, held a special meeting to discuss the allegations anyway Tuesday night.

Most parents said they were in disbelief that the board of education would give so much attention to anonymous complaints, but the board said they were taking them seriously because they contained a threat of litigation.

The meeting’s public comment centered on coach and teacher Tim Guernsey.

“I’ve had him for seven varsity seasons and I’ve never once seen an instance of bullying, verbal harassment, anything,” said Sarah Veilleux, a RHAM senior and volleyball player.

The coach came under fire in a series of anonymous letters written to the board, claiming he bullied students. The group who wrote the letters called themselves “parents and concerned taxpayers.”

They accuse Guernsey of berating his students and pushing them too hard. But every single one of the dozens of parents and students speaking publicly Tuesday night said the complaints are bogus.

Some parents and players admitted that Guernsey is a tough coach, but all of them said he’s never come close to bullying. Conversely, they said he’s changed them for the better.

Missie Carlson, a RHAM parent, said she didn’t know why someone would accuse the coach of bullying.

“I have no idea but the fact that all this credence is being given to anonymous letters is disgusting,” she said.

Guernsey, who is fresh off a state title on Saturday as girl’s volleyball coach, was not seen at the meeting, but support for the coach was simply overwhelming.

But Superintendent Robert Siminski says three things are important to consider:  the threat of a lawsuit in the letters, the privacy concerns of students named in the letters and the board honoring the established bullying policy by reviewing all accusations.

“When you look at where the investigation is going, it’s not going to the coach, it’s going to these things,” he said.

The district has hired counsel to investigate the allegations.

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  • Chris Smith

    And the pussification of America continues. Little Johnny didnt get enough playing time… Wahhh. Little Johnny got yelled at….wahhhh

  • Susan Baker

    Some high school coaches indeed are on power-trips and do in fact choose to target a few players every year and then do everything they can to crush their spirit. We live in ct, and this has gone on for years in our private high school. There are coaches who have zero "people skills", are confrontational with parents and retaliate against players if parents dare cross them. Coach bullying definitely occurs (and does not necessarily have anything to do with playing time), yet parents are afraid to report them for fear of making the situation even worse. A solution? Administrators should pass out "exit interviews" or surveys to both parents and players at the end of each season and especially to graduating Seniors to gather coach feedback – both pluses and negatives. You may be quite surprised at what has been going on under your nose all these years, and it would potentially stop the abusive coaches from behaving that way if they know it will come out in the survey and be part of their performance review.

  • ward

    He will and always has been a bully to other faculty as well as students. When complaints are made administration has looked the other way or said it was a personality difference. Since he has championships, actually the girls do not him, not much attention has been paid to the issues. Whether it was calling a student a name as a joke or not you are an educator and need to set an example. Having witnessed his attacks first hand he is knowledgeable about the game but lacks the character to coach. Let alone the girls are afraid to speak out as well as other faculty in fear of being reprimanded or pushed out out of the school or off of a team. He has cut boarder line students in the past because he thought the parents were a pain, his words. Much goes on behind the scenes and teachers cannot speak on it in fear of losing their job.

  • Taxpayer

    The kids of whoever wrote these false letters should stick to bowling and not team sports. Mr. Guernsey is an excellent teacher and coach. The people writing these letters should be ashamed of what they're doing and are actually the ones doing the bullying. These people obviously do not know Mr. Guernsey and are trying to bring a great man down. Absolutely embarrassing to the RHAM community.

  • Vanessa Grano

    I was always proud to be a RHAM graduate. The teachers were some of the best in the state, the programs were excellent, and we had a large supportive community. Today I am heartbroken to hear of the accusation against Mr. Guernsey. I had him as a teacher multiple times and I can speak from personal experience that he is a great teacher and coach. Never in all my years at RHAM and in all my classes with Mr. Guernsey have I seen, heard, or experienced anything close to bullying.

    The people that are allegedly being bullied and “parents and concerned taxpayers.” should be ashamed. One complaint states that Guernsey was too hard on the students. That is a joke. Too hard on students? We have a problem in our country of teachers not being hard enough, not challenging our students, not pushing them. Guernsey is tough but is he any tougher than life after high school? I think not. We don't go around saying life is bullying us. If anything we should be thanking him for teaching students that people are tough, life is tough and you don't always make the mark, that you need to push yourself to the limits to succeed. We need to stop this generation of entitled brats that think they can do anything at anytime and they are going to be good at it. Life doesn't work that way.

    I am most upset at the "parents and concerned taxpayers", they are the real masterminds behind all this nonsense. If you are so concerned then come out and show yourselves. Don't hide behind anonymous letters. That is cowardly and shows that you have no basis for these accusations because if you did you wouldn't be hiding in the shadows pointing fingers. Some claim that they are afraid for their jobs if they speak out, sorry but I call bullshit. The school board would never, NEVER fire a teacher for speaking out on such matters. If they did it would be inviting a lawsuit and that they just wouldn't do. So your theory of protecting your job is bullshit. Next others claim they fear for the students, well let me call bullshit again. Does anyone really believe that in High school when accusations are thrown at a favorite teacher that the students don't know who did it? Do you all really not remember High school? When Jane doe kissed John Smith (Fake names) it spread around the school in a matter of 8 minutes between class change. So you think that something that makes the news isn't going to be sniffed out and spread around the school? You are hiding because you are wrong.

    Lastly I would like to say as much as we don't like to admit it there are winners and losers in life. Seems to me like these kids and parents are in loser denial. None of us like to lose, no one likes getting booted off a team or just not picked to play, no one wants to not make the team. If you are just not cut out for certain things move along and find something you are cut out for and if you are cut out for volleyball buck up, get your game face on, give it your all, take the heat and love the game to death. Kids don't be a whiny brat, and parents please stop raising children to not know the difference between a bully and someone who is tough. You are not helping them.

  • LCS

    Funny how so many people are appalled by this and demand the anonymous people come forward and show themselves….right, like that wouldn't case any kind of backlash. It's not the first time a coach at RHAM has bullied and it won't be the last because they administration lacks the balls to do anything about it. Coaching need not involve yelling, belittling, or any other form of ridicule. Anyone who believes this to be a "normal" part of competitive sports is severely uneducated on the matter of behavior and how negative reinforcers, aversives or punishment are highly inaccurate and unpredictable in terms to getting results. You catch more flies with honey and you get better results as a coach and teacher with positive methods. Scientific fact. I was a student athlete at RHAM, I've seen first hand the horrible people the school has gone great lengths to protect – all for the sake of titles and wins. Zotta, Purnell….names ring a bell? Both guilty of verbal abuse on numerous occasions, even harassment outside of sports. Both "spoken to" by administrators without so much as a slap on the wrist to show for it. Guernsey isn't new at this harassment thing either – happened almost 10 years ago, my sister was one of the harassed. Numerous complaints made (none anonymous BTW) and nothing done then. So why would the school do anything now? Oh and one of Guernseys' past offenses involved signing a participation certificate "under duress" because he refused to give an athlete the certificate which they had earned and had to be forced to do so by the school administration…..GROW UP. You want to throw a hissy fit and act like a teenager? Then you don't belong working with students if that's the kind of example you plan to set.