FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Robert Schuppert Jr. didn't have anything suspicious in his criminal background when he was hired as assistant coach to the boys varsity basketball team at Forest Grove High School last season.
It's part of the reason his dad fiercly defends him.
"He graduated from Forest Grove, he's a great athlete, he comes from a Christian family," Robert Schuppert Sr. told the On Your Side Investigators on Wednesday. "You'd be surprised how what kind of character this kid has. He's a good kid."
On August 27, a Washington County Grand Jury indicted Schuppert, 30, with two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, luring a minor and tampering with physical evidence. Two days later, Forest Grove police said he was taken into custody at the Washington Sheriff's Office on an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
KATU called the district attorney handling the case for more details, but calls were not immediately returned. Court documents about the case were not available Wednesday.
Investigators said Schuppert's arrest capped a four-month investigation by the department about an allegation he was involved in an improper relationship with a female student at Forest Grove High School during his capacity as assistant coach.
At the end of season, the district placed Schuppert on leave when it received information he may have had an inappropriate relationship, according to Forest Grove School District spokeswoman Connie Potter. His contract was not renewed.
Schuppert's dad said his son and the student - whom KATU is not identifying - were friends but nothing more.
"The accusations are ridiculous," Schuppert Sr. said. "It's just misconstrued; I mean, everything is all blown out of proportion."
Schuppert Sr. insisted the student and her mom supported Schuppert, saying "they're all on his side," but the On Your Side Investigators could not substantiate those claims Wednesday.
Schuppert Sr. said his son took a polygraph test.
"He took the number one polygraph test in the state of Oregon and passed it with flying colors," Schuppert Sr. said. "It proves he's innocent."
Investigators would not comment on a polygraph.
In Oregon, and many other states, polygraph tests are inadmissible in court.
The Forest Grove Police Department is asking for the public to contact it with any information regarding Schuppert's conduct while he was a coach at Forest Grove High School. Call (503) 992-3260, or after hours at (503) 629-0111.
Background checks for coaches
Coaches can fall into three different categories when they are screened for background checks in Oregon:
- If the coach doubles as a teacher, he or she is background checked through the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC), which all teacher candidates must be licensed by in order to secure a job in Oregon. TSPC runs a criminal background check on these staff members through the the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
- If the coach is a paid employee of the district, like in Schuppert's case, the ODE runs the criminal background check. In the process, the potential employee's fingerprints are sent to the Oregon State Police where they are then checked against an FBI database. This process is done at the time they are offered employment, according to ODE spokeswoman Crystal Greene. According to Oregon law, dozens of crimes would immediately disqualify a coach candidate from a being offered a job, which range from rape and murder, to sex abuse, prostitution and luring a minor.
- If the coach is a volunteer, Greene said, the state does not handle the screenings but rather it's up to individual districts to choose if they check volunteers.
The On Your Side Investigators confirmed the Forest Grove School District did not previously run background checks on volunteers, but Potter but said they are implementing criminal background checks this school year.
Individual school districts' background checks
The On Your Side Investigators also contacted about a half a dozen school districts in Oregon to see how they vet coaching candidates and other staff members. All the districts that responded followed the same or similar screening processes for candidates, which often used a combination of background checks from TSPC and ODE.
The Salem-Keizer School District takes even more precautions, according to district spokesman Jay Remy. He said after a teacher candidate is run through TSPC, the district runs a second round of background checks through the Oregon Judicial Information Network (OJIN) and Oregon eCourts system, both online tools to check for criminal history.
As for volunteers, Remy said they are screened through both OJIN and eCourts as well as a private company that runs a nation-wide search for criminal history. A criminal history doesn't always disqualify a candidate and Remy said if the district flags something in a candidate's background check, they will talk to the candidate.
Gresham-Barlow School District spokeswoman Athena Vadnais sent the following information:
Administrators: The Oregon Department of Education does our background checks on administrators. ODE runs their background checks through the Oregon State Police and the FBI.
Licensed Staff (Teachers, Counselors): In order to obtain a teaching license (and maintain one) they must be licensed through TSPC (Teachers Standards and Practices Commission - State of Oregon). TSPC does a background check on these staff members through the ODE. ODE runs their background checks through the Oregon State Police and the FBI.
The District runs a background check again through ODE if a licensed teacher is hired by district.
Classified Staff (Support staff such as secretaries, educational assistants, custodians, etc.): We require them to be fingerprinted. Their prints are sent to the ODE and the ODE does a background check on them through the Oregon State Police and FBI. If they come to our district and were fingerprinted and cleared by another Oregon school district within the last year, that serves as clearance. If it has been over a year, we require them to get re-fingerprinted.
Individuals such as coaches, AVID tutors (people who have unsupervised contact with students) who do not have a teaching license must be fingerprinted. (Then checks are run through the ODE).
Volunteers who have supervised contact with students (such as a parent volunteering in an elementary school classroom) fall under a completely different category.