The Apple Leaf

Bus trip assault chaos caught on video

Story broke here Nov. 21, 2014; published in The Apple Leaf Nov. 26, 2014.
2nd place, National Scholastic Press Association, News Story of the Year

A 10-second video on the social network Snapchat was how one mother saw her son sexually assaulted on a Wenatchee High School freshman football trip on Sept. 6. She described, in an interview with police, her son being held down by a “huge kid and he (her son) was screaming like a little girl,” while approximately six other student athletes stood around watching and laughing.

Story broke Nov. 21, 2014
Story published Nov. 26, 2014

On Nov. 6, the now 15-year-old freshman suspect appeared in court for what was supposed to be a hearing to determine if both parties were ready to go to trial, which has been continued. The suspect will now appear in court on Dec. 30 for a readiness hearing, and is scheduled to go to trial for the three counts of second-degree rape on Jan. 9. At the Nov. 6 hearing, both parties were still waiting for the final report from law enforcement, according to the hearing minutes. The suspect’s attorney, Brandon Redal, did not return a request for comment.

The final police report was filed Nov. 13, but Jared Reinfeld, Wenatchee Police’s lead detective for this case, noted that a police interview with WHS Principal Bob Celebrezze is still missing, which will be added in a later report. At least four more detectives or officers have worked on this case.

This report and more, obtained by The Apple Leaf through public disclosure requests to the Wenatchee Police Department, contain interviews of players who were on the freshman football team’s trip to WHS from Spokane, after their first away game of the season. Police also interviewed the bus driver and parents of some victims. Names of most interview subjects were redacted in police documents.

The student who took the video and posted it on Snapchat was suspended by Celebrezze, the police report said.

One of the three victim’s mothers told police Sept. 15 that her son hasn’t been the same since the assault. “He’s stressed and he wants to move,” she told police in an interview. “He made the comment he understands why people could commit suicide because all the negative and all the pressure he feels.” The victim told his mom that he wouldn’t go to that extent, and she told police that she would get her son a counselor, according to the police interview.

The coach, Kevin Sellers, who was the only Wenatchee School District employee on the bus, was asked to be interviewed when the police department began investigating, but instead requested a lawyer. “Given what Wenatchee School District did to Ed Knaggs, my client decided it would be wise to have an attorney present when interviewed by police,” Sellers’ attorney John Brangwin said in an email. Brangwin has contacted the police department twice for that interview, but the detective has yet to schedule it.

According to Reinfeld’s written report filed Nov. 13, “Kids mentioned the fact that (suspect) should not have been on the bus trip due to grades and or not having enough practice time.” A copy of the bus roster for that trip shows a name was added in writing to the bottom of a typed list, and one interview subject told police “(the suspect’s) name wasn’t posted on the bus ride.”

Story broke Nov. 21, 2014
Story broke Nov. 21, 2014

Athletic Director Jim Beeson said his department’s duty of care manual clearly outlines procedures for travel. If a student is academically ineligible, they can’t travel. There’s “no gray area,” he said. In the case of a student showing up to travel but not being eligible, Beeson said he would expect the coach to send the player home.

The A&A Motorcoach bus driver told Wenatchee police detectives Sept. 17 that it was the worst bus trip of her life — 47 passengers were on board. Students were loud and not staying in their seat, eventually to the point that the driver ended up calling her boss to request pulling the bus over to address the situation. The boss instructed her to let Sellers handle it, according to the police report.

The driver also told police that other coaches drove separately in a school vehicle. According to the police report, this was to allow more students to ride on the bus. One of the team’s assistant coaches said the assistants were told to ride in a separate vehicle by Sellers.

The bus did have a camera, according to the bus driver, but it was not activated during the trip. Beeson will contact A&A Motorcoach to see what can be done to ensure cameras are activated on every trip, he said.

Sellers remains on paid administrative leave at this time. Brangwin said his client didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary during the return trip Sept. 6.

“My client doesn’t have that perception (of the bus driver) that it was exceptionally loud,” Brangwin said, adding that freshmen boys football players are likely to be a louder group of people. The bus driver’s story is inconsistent with parts of Sellers’ story, Brangwin said.

When interviewed by police in September, multiple student athletes told police how “wild” and “crazy” the bus trip after the game was — details of screaming, students testing how many students could fit in the charter bus’ bathroom, depantsing other players, and general “horseplay” that eventually “got way out of hand,” according to police interviews.

“I think that was the first time he’s (the suspect) done anything like that. Everything else he’s done bad are usually with fights,” one witness told police. “He just was kinda different on the bus.”

A witness told police Sept. 11 that the suspect was watching pornography on the bus and trying to show other athletes.

Another witness on board had to use the bathroom during the bus trip, but before going, tightly secured his pants so no one could pull them down while walking the aisle, according to the police report. Some students in the middle of the bus, who knew what was going on, simply warned students from the front of the bus to stay out of the back.

Most students reported that Sellers walked the bus aisle two to three times during the return trip, and often asked students to quiet down from his seat at the front of the bus. “When he would walk back, everybody would be quiet,” one witness told police. “But then when he would walk to the front, it would just get loud again.”

When the assault was originally reported Sept. 8 by a football player’s parent to police, detectives dismissed the call after one interview with a student who said the bus trip was fairly normal, people were just messing around, and nothing “that bad” happened, according to a police report.

After that original interview, Celebrezze conducted follow-up interviews with students on the trip to discover that more happened than originally thought. That’s when he called detectives back in, and the investigation continued, according to the police report.

After five initial interviews on Sept. 9, Reinfeld had probable cause to arrest the suspect, which he did on Sept. 10 in a meeting with the suspect and his parents at the police department.

Not all witnesses described the incident as serious. Some heard yelling and saw horseplay, according to police interviews, but nothing inappropriate.

The suspect pleaded not guilty to all three counts of rape in court Sept. 25, and $50,000 bail was posted Oct. 1. While the suspect remains out of custody, he has not returned to WHS. He was emergency expelled following the incident. One of the suspect’s parents alleged that others on the bus participated in the assaults.

Attorney for the school district Danielle Marchant declined to comment on the student’s current status with the district, but she did say, in general terms, that emergency expulsions can only last for 10 days. “If the emergency expulsion is converted to another form of corrective action, then the requirements for the new corrective action will govern,” Marchant said in an email. She added that there are circumstances when an emergency expulsion can be converted to a long-term suspension.

Marchant wouldn’t go as far to call it a policy or even a rule, but she said the Athletic Department instituted a new plan that more than one adult has to be on each bus, in addition to the bus driver. Beeson said three coaches have to be on a bus — one at the front, middle, and back. If three coaches aren’t on board, the coaches that are present have to rotate between the three locations. This change took effect after the incident and is now a clear requirement in the duty of care manual, Beeson said. Although this procedure was in the duty of care manual prior to the incident, Beeson said it’s been reworded to make it a requirement. The procedure has yet to go before the school board for approval.

The district hired a private investigator to conduct the internal investigation, Superintendent Brian Flones said in early October. Marchant declined to comment on the status of the investigation because it’s ongoing. Brangwin said his client has been interviewed three times — once by Marchant; twice by the investigator — and anticipates that the internal investigation will end in December.

It is The Apple Leaf’s policy to not name student suspects or victims prior to trial and the paper would only print a name in the case of a serious felony. In addition, it is the paper’s policy to not publish graphic details, as disclosed in police reports.

Click here to read the story that was updated over a few days after originally posted as breaking news.

The Apple Leaf

Report: Sellers’ supervision lax, unaware of policies

Story broke here Feb. 6, 2014; published in The Apple Leaf Feb. 11, 2014.

The report from Wenatchee School District’s investigator said the freshman football coach in charge of supervision during the alleged rapes on a return trip from a game in Spokane Sept. 6 was not familiar with school policies and that there was lax and ineffective supervision on the bus.

The investigator also concluded there was a high level of misunderstanding and miscommunication among coaches and administration in the high school athletic program about rules and standard safety procedures.

Freshman football coach Kevin Sellers

Despite these findings, the freshman coach, Kevin Sellers, remains on paid administrative leave. Sellers has been on leave since Sept. 11, after a freshman player was expelled from school and booked into juvenile detention for allegedly raping three other players during a Sept. 6 return trip to Wenatchee High School.

And at this time, there’s still no estimate as to when Sellers’ leave will end, Sellers’ attorney John Brangwin said this afternoon. Those details are still being worked out, he said.

Superintendent Brian Flones was out of town today and couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to the report released today by the Wenatchee School District, Sellers “was generally unfamiliar with many of the District’s policies and procedures.” This report came from the district’s hired investigator, Kris Cappel.

But Brangwin calls this case a management failure. “[Wenatchee School District and WHS] just have a management mess… Sellers is the lowest guy. … He shouldn’t be the scapegoat for this thing,” he said.

Football coach’s attorney John Brangwin

Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron said this afternoon that she believes “that the members I represent have been treated fairly and appropriately during the investigation as well as the outcome. The union won’t be taking any further action on behalf of our members at this time.”

The district’s investigator interviewed 33 witnesses and reviewed “hundreds of pages of documents.” That included the suspect’s student file with the district, Wenatchee Police Department reports, and communications between several district officials, staff, and stakeholders, among others, the report said.

According to Brangwin, the district’s investigator based her investigation primarily on interviews done by the police department. But, the police department interviews, he said, are “very flawed” because they didn’t follow “standard child interview techniques.” The questions were too leading and failed to report appropriate details, he said.

“Theres a lot to this case that has really been blown out of proportion, and that starts with poor child interview techniques,” Brangwin said.

The district issued a press release this afternoon, stating that actions are being taken to update policies and procedures, provide instruction to personnel, and requiring personnel to engage in student supervision and safety training.


For the Sept. 6 trip, the normal 55-seat charter bus was unavailable, so Sellers requested a Suburban, which was approved by head football coach Scott Devereaux, according to the report. Sellers directed three of his assistant coaches to ride in the Suburban, which the investigative report says he “modeled his decision on what had been the longstanding practices of Coach Devereaux.”

“Two of the freshman assistant coaches told Coach Sellers that they didn’t think it was a good idea to take the Suburban,” the report said. “[Sellers] had no reservations whatsoever about being the only adult on the bus with supervisory responsibilities.”

Before each sports season, coaches met with the athletic director for what’s called a pre-season meeting. BJ Kuntz was athletic director up until this year, when Jim Beeson took over. But interviews with coaches indicate not everyone was aware of the same policies, according to the investigative report.

Former Athletic Director BJ Kuntz

“Coach Sellers and Coach Devereaux all reported that they were not aware of any policies or procedures, or verbal guidelines dictating 1) the number of coaches who must ride a charter bus; 2) where coaches must sit on the bus; 3) coach to athlete ratios; 4) whether coaches should roam throughout the bus during road trips. AD Kuntz agreed that those kinds of details were not a focus of her pre-season meetings, and stated that there had never been any issues or problems associated with supervision of bus transportation.”

The report goes on to say that Beeson’s first meeting with coaches this school year “reminded coaches to diligently supervise their athletes to assure their safety” and that “it has been practice of the WHS athletic department to leave it to the discretion of each head coach to determine how many coaches ride the bus and where they sit.”

Supervision was a problem in previous years, according to an email from Kuntz, sent to former freshman football coach Mike Dacey and Devereaux on June 7, 2012. “I just came to school for a meeting and there are about 20 or so freshman boys outside the athletic office waiting to get picked up by their parents. [They] are climbing on the roof, playing chase, and not being supervised,” it said. This email was obtained through a public disclosure request by The Apple Leaf.

It was also a policy of the athletic department for academically ineligible athletes to avoid traveling with the team. But Sellers said he was not aware of any policy or rule that prohibited the suspect from traveling with the team in street clothes. His decision to allow the suspect to travel “did not violate District, WHS, or WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) eligibility policies.”

Athletic Director Jim Beeson

His decision, though, was “contrary to the plain meaning of the WHS football handbook, but Coach Devereaux stated that the handbook was not intended to supersede or change the policy that allowed [redacted] players to travel as long as they didn’t miss school or dress down.”

According to the report, Devereaux crafted the handbook, but “didn’t review or rely on District, WIAA, or other policies or regulations in drafting the sections that were added to the handbook,” which was revised two or three years ago, at the request of Kuntz. It was originally created by Devereaux more than five years ago.

The report states that during Kuntz’s time as athletic director, she “largely left it to the discretion of the coach to decide whether to take ineligible players on away games.”

The two athletic directors promoted different guidelines and policies, which contributed to the confusion among coaches.

The rape suspect had a history of violent encounters in the Wenatchee School District, and according to Cappel’s report, “There is no formal policy or practice of sharing information between middle school and high school coaches about incoming freshman student-athletes.”

Coaches, however, have disciplinary records available to them on the school’s student information system, Skyward. Cappel’s report indicates that coaches do not regularly review that information.

One of the freshman coaches said that he was familiar with the suspect’s Pioneer Middle School assault charges, “but that he was pleasantly surprised by [suspect’s] behavior once he joined the freshman team. He saw no indication that [suspect] posed a risk to his teammates. The other coaches did not recall being told that [suspect] should be closely supervised.”


The report says that Sellers walked the aisle of the bus between two and 10 times during the bus ride, and each time, the rowdiness settled.

“This was a bus full of teammates — it wasn’t a prison bus heading to Walla Walla — and Mr. Sellers wasn’t a prison guard on a prison bus,” Brangwin said.

In his first interview with Cappel, Sellers stated “that the noise level was not excessive and was no different than any other bus trip he had ever taken in the past.” Sellers changed his statement in the second interview with Cappel, and “conceded that it might have been a little loud, but as far as he could tell all of the kids were having a good time, and he didn’t want to spoil their fun,” the report said.

Cappel concluded in her report that there was lax and ineffective supervision on the bus. But Brangwin disagrees with that statement, because his client was contacted by a concerned parent after the alleged incident occurred. He responded to that email on Sunday, Sept. 7, which Brangwin says indicated the coach wasn’t “lax” at all.

“He’s an intense, dedicated football coach who’s really big into football,” Brangwin said, adding that most parents and athletes respect Sellers’ coaching.

According to documents obtained by The Apple Leaf today, Sellers completed approximately 45 minutes less of sexual harassment policy and prevention training this year, compared to two hours of training in this area for many previous years.

The freshman suspect appeared in court Jan. 29, but his trial was again pushed back to March 13. He was bailed out Oct. 1 and plead not guilty on Sept. 25.

Adrian Robinson contributed to this story. 

The Apple Leaf

Did you know there is a District policy on homework?

The Apple Leaf photo / Luke Strahm
Photo by Luke Strahm / The Apple Leaf

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Jan. 22, 2015.

It’s with great amusement that I find a Wenatchee School District policy for homework. Yes, Wenatchee High School students, there is a board policy that outlines guidelines for teachers when assigning homework. The policy number is 2422, and it states: “The board believes that homework is a constructive tool in the teaching [and] learning process when geared to the needs and abilities of students.” According to the policy, homework can be assigned for one or more of the following purposes: practice, preparation, extension, or creativity. “As an extension of the classroom, homework must be planned and organized; must be viewed as purposeful to the students; and must be evaluated and returned to students in a timely manner,” policy 2422 states.

As many of us students know, this is rarely the case. Returning homework in a timely manner? Homework that is planned — AND organized? And purposeful? … Well, that could be debated. Homework, by far, is purposeful for practicing and preparing for exams — I think every student could agree on that, considering this type of homework finalizes your understanding of topics before a test. But, my fellow classmates, needless to say, use this policy to your advantage as leverage which assignments truly are constructive, planned, and organized. If they don’t fit the policy, should you have to do it?

And teachers, it might be time for you to review this policy. But please don’t make my last semester too difficult.


Online advertisement

Occasionally, the business department of The Apple Leaf and online worked together to create advertisements. Bryce worked with this business to sponsor The Apple Leaf‘s survey and helped create the final version for The Apple Leaf website. With web tools, he linked the ad directly to the survey page.

Advertisement published on The Apple Leaf website Feb. 1, 2015.
Advertisement published on The Apple Leaf website Feb. 1, 2015.

Integrating documents

Since much of Bryce’s reporting referenced documents, it was important that he learned how to integrate documents for the reader to view them firsthand. This hyperlink (in photo below) allowed readers to view the press release word-for-word.

Website Design
This screenshot shows the use of related links, which brings more context to the reader.
The Apple Leaf

Data reveals large discrepancies in discipline for substance-abusers

Story originally published here Jan. 9, 2015.

Wenatchee School District discipline statistics show some student substance-abusers aren’t being disciplined according to district policy by high school administrators — a common trend for the last six years. And survey results show that drug and alcohol use by WHS students exceeds the state average.

Story published Jan. 9, 2015
Story published Jan. 9, 2015

“It’s kind of a mystery to me,” Wenatchee School District Student Intervention Specialist Amy McCubbin said of the discipline statistics.

According to a report obtained by The Apple Leaf from Wenatchee School District’s Safety and Security department, 286 students have been referred to the WHS administration from September 2008 to June 2014 for suspicion of alcohol-, tobacco- or drug-related offenses by the Safety and Security department. Of those cases, only 10 alcohol- and 47 drug-related cases have continued to a criminal case with the Wenatchee Police Department.

Wenatchee School District procedure 2121 states: “Law enforcement agencies will be called upon for investigative and consultative assistance where illegal drug or alcohol activity has occurred.”

WHS Principal Bob Celebrezze said the police will always be called for consultation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll need to be called in to investigate every situation. If a student admits to substance abuse or it’s blatantly evident that they’re under the influence, no call to local law enforcement is necessary. When a student is in possession or involved with purchasing or selling controlled substances at school, the police would automatically be contacted, he said.

District Administrator of Student Services John Waldren said in most cases, law enforcement is contacted as the policy states, but there is some flexibility that just depends on the situation. Waldren said he is more interested in the intervention cycle for students because he wants to see them in school, he said.

Some might look at the large discrepancy in data and conclude that students aren’t being treated equally. Multiple sources told The Apple Leaf that this is true, but were afraid to be named. They cited “circumstances” (specifically athletics) or the “timing [of the alleged violation]” as two reasons students might not be receiving consistent discipline.

So, if students are being disciplined differently, is this a sign that administrators need more training on district policy? Or if students are going to be treated differently to allow for flexibility, is it wise to rewrite district policy?

Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Teaching Jodi Smith, who oversees instruction policies, according to Waldren, hasn’t returned a request for comment since originally contacted Dec. 11. Director of Risk Management and Safety Adam Bergstrom said he had nothing to add to what Waldren said.

The school board approved a risk management plan in December, which promoted Bergstrom to become the director of risk management and safety for the district. The draft proposal for this plan, provided to The Apple Leaf by the Superintendent’s Office, does not include reviewing substance abuse policies or procedures as part of the nearly 100 areas identified for needing initial attention.

According to Wenatchee School District procedure 3241, the use of alcohol, drugs, sale, and/or delivery require emergency expulsions.

Records obtained through a public disclosure request to the Wenatchee School District indicate not all 286 cases reported to high school administrators by safety and security in the last six school years have resulted in suspensions or expulsions — only 195 have.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” McCubbin said. “Going by policy [for drug, alcohol, and tobacco], there should not be that big of a discrepancy.”

Celebrezze said some reasons for the difference in referral and discipline data could be that the student decided to drop out or transfer schools when found guilty, or because they are not found guilty after an investigation of their referral.

The Range of Sanctions chart, part of district procedure 3241, indicates the minimum corrective action for possession or use of alcohol or any controlled substance is a long-term suspension. This action can last for 11 to 90 days, according to WHS Safety and Security Officer Don Durden. The maximum action is expulsion, which lasts for a year at the least. An expelled student can’t attend a public school in the state for that time period, Durden said.

Ultimately, it’s the administrator’s decision to decide what to do with a student brought to their attention for drug, alcohol, or tobacco violations, McCubbin said. McCubbin noted that it is sometimes “days” before she finds out from administration about students who have violated the drug or alcohol policy.

The “biggest and boldest move” by the Wenatchee School District, Celebrezze said, was deciding to hire a school resource officer back into the district as part of the risk management plan, contracted through the Wenatchee Police Department. He said students might be less inclined to come back from lunches under the influence with a trained police officer on campus watching.

WHS officials often detect student misconduct on the surveillance cameras, Durden said. He described a time that he saw students poking holes in an apple, which he said is a common sign that apple would be used for smoking marijuana.

Durden said school officials have a broader standard than police officers when searching or investigating student misconduct. While law enforcement officers are held to the standard of “probable cause,” he said school officials simply need “reasonable suspicion” in order to pursue a discipline or turn an investigation over to law enforcement. The new school resource officer, who still has to be hired, will operate under law enforcement guidelines, Bergstrom said in an email.

The definition for “reasonable suspicion” has two parts, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

— It’s justified at its inception. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating the law or school rules.

— The search is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the search, meaning that the measures used to conduct the search are reasonably related to the objectives of the search.

Story published Jan. 9, 2015
Story published Jan. 9, 2015

“It is looser than probable cause,” according to the Cornell University Law School website.

Safety and security officers at WHS have access to an Alco-Sensor Field Sobriety Test breathalyzer, and are also equipped with a drug recognition testing kit. Both officers are trained with both of these tools, and use them in situations where reasonable suspicion is present. Durden said the breathalyzer has been used at school dances in the past. The tests can be refused by students, he said.


After The Apple Leaf’s coverage of intoxication at school events, Celebrezze issued a statement to all parents and faculty outlining new guidelines and procedures in place for future school dances.

At the larger-scale dances, like Prom and Homecoming, there will now be two administrators, 10 teacher chaperones, parent chaperones, two on-duty police officers, and WHS safety and security staff present, Celebrezze said in his Dec. 2 letter to all families and faculty.

This is a change, as only one on-duty police officer was present at the 2014 Homecoming dance. New this school year, teachers were compensated for chaperoning the dance. The compensation will continue for future dances, Celebrezze said.

Celebrezze also said in his Dec. 2 letter that students who attend school events under the influence of drugs and alcohol will receive school discipline, after being turned over to local law enforcement. WHS would follow “due process and district procedures” for handling these situations, he said.

In an earlier interview with The Apple Leaf, Celebrezze said three students were arrested at the 2014 Prom, held at the Town Toyota Center, which The Apple Leaf reported in this Nov. 5 article. A check of Wenatchee Police Department and Chelan County Sheriff’s Office records indicated only one arrest was made, of a non-student, for being a minor in possession. The 18-year-old was taken to the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.

Originally, the student was only going to receive an MIP citation, which was requested by Celebrezze, but became “belligerent” with Celebrezze, which is when Celebrezze requested the sheriff arrest him, according to the sheriff’s report. In an interview Dec. 3 with The Apple Leaf, Celebrezze revised his statement, saying there were three students law enforcement were “dealing with” during the event.

“We have no interest in any type of rebuttal to the [Nov. 26] article and are both moving forward,” Celebrezze and Assistant Principal Dave Perkins said in an email to The Apple Leaf. “All members of the Wenatchee High School administration believe and demonstrate through action that students making good choices is paramount to their learning, safety, and well-being.”


According to the 2012 Washington Healthy Youth Survey, WHS sophomores and seniors were higher than the state average by up to five-percent for alcohol use, binge drinking, substance use at school, and marijuana use.

According to Celebrezze, one reason he sees for the higher statistics, compared to the state or metro areas, could be the socioeconomic demographics at WHS.

McCubbin said this is the third school year that the freshman class has received an intervention education “crash course,” called Project Success, initiated by the state Department of Behavioral Health Resources. Since the state marijuana laws have changed, McCubbin said her caseload of student-users has gone up.

The 2014 Healthy Youth Survey was completed last school year, and the results will be available to school district administrators in March. These results will be compared to 2012’s, Durden said.

The Healthy Youth Survey is administered by the Washington Department of Health.