Did the secrecy help anyone?

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By David Giuliani

Can you imagine if the Police Department stopped releasing information on those they arrested and, instead, said that would be the responsibility of the suspects?

Very few people would want to announce to the world that they had been arrested. That’s information they’d prefer to keep secret.

But this scenario is business as usual for the New Mexico Activities Association.

Recently, a lawsuit filed by parents of the Robertson High School football team assault victims indicated that the team had been placed on probation for two years in 2006.

We wanted to verify this, so we called the NMAA. Robert Zayas, the spokesman, told me that his group didn’t release such information and that we had to get it from the school.

Minutes later, I called the parents’ lawyer, and he faxed me all of the documents about RHS’ probation, which he had received from the NMAA through a public records request. It turned out that then-coach Chad Roanhaus didn’t have his coaching license, which led to the sanctions.

This became something of a state secret. Then-Superintendent Pete Campos, a state senator, apparently didn’t tell his own school board, and local sports enthusiasts I interviewed had no idea about the probation.

In a recent interview, Zayas told me that his organization’s informal policy was that it didn’t release information when it placed school teams on probation. But he said the public often finds out anyway.

Unfortunately, in Las Vegas’ case, we didn’t. In 2008, upperclassmen infamously sodomized younger players with broomsticks at a football camp. And, according to the lawsuit, the coaches involved also didn’t have their proper licensure.

In other words, they didn’t have all of the formal preparation to handle a football team.

If the public had been made aware of the previous probation, maybe the district would have made sure its coaches had all the right licenses and certifications. And it’s possible such vigilance could have prevented the horrid events of 2008.

I’m not sure whom the secrecy in 2008 helped. Campos hasn’t answered my calls for comment.

Zayas told me that other state activities associations have different policies for releasing information on sanctions against schools. Texas, for instance, publishes all such records.

I don’t consider myself a fan of the Lone Star State, but in this case, I think New Mexico would be well advised to follow Texas’ example.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.