Editor’s note: This story details allegations of unwanted sexual contact.
Hundreds of Salem high school students walked out of classes Friday to protest what they described as inappropriate sexual behavior by a North Salem High School teacher who formerly coached the varsity girls basketball team.
A group of seniors on the basketball team organized the walkout, saying their reports of harassment and sexual touching by Trever Ball were buried following a district investigation over a year ago.
Ball is no longer coaching the team, but remains a health services teacher at North Salem. Basketball students said in interviews they were concerned school officials would bring him back as a coach after they graduate.
“There’s still younger girls that are on the varsity team. We felt we needed to protect them,” said Natalya Mendoza, a senior.
Students gathered in the parking lot of the district’s Student Services Support Center on South Commercial Street Friday, some after marching three miles from North. They chanted and waved signs calling for Ball’s removal.
Some school administrators and employees watched the protest from the outskirts of the parking lot.
Mendoza and teammate Raychel Vipperman, both 18, said Ball regularly touched girls on the team in ways that made them uncomfortable, including touching them on the buttocks during practice. Both said he pressed his erect penis into their backs during drills in their junior season.
Ball did not respond to a voicemail and emails Friday afternoon from Salem Reporter detailing the allegations made. The district’s human resources office placed him on paid administrative leave June 1 following a report, Harada said. The decision came after a post Mendoza made on Instagram detailing her experiences with Ball.
“This is part of our standard procedure when allegations of this nature are made against staff while the district investigates. This procedure is ongoing, and we cannot share specific details due to personnel confidentiality laws,” Salem-Keizer School District spokesman Aaron Harada said in an email.
Mendoza said Ball behaved inappropriately for months, commenting on girls’ appearances and telling them they looked good in shorts or crop tops.
“He just felt like we weren’t going to reach out to anyone,” she said.
Mendoza said more than 10 students came forward to school officials in December 2021 with similar descriptions of touching and inappropriate comments by Ball.
North Salem High School Principal Chad Towe, who was at the student protest Friday, declined to comment on the allegations against Ball or how the school handled its previous investigation. He referred questions to Harada.
Harada said Ball was placed on paid administrative leave from Dec. 9, 2021, through March 27, 2022, but declined to elaborate on the reason for the leave or the outcome of the investigation. Ball was unable to coach basketball while on leave, and the season had ended by the time he returned, Harada said.
Oregon’s Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, which licenses teachers, received a complaint about Ball around Dec. 17, 2021, said Cristina Edgar, the commission’s director of professional practices. The case was dismissed, which Edgar said means there was insufficient evidence to substantiate it.
Students said Ball did not return to coach basketball, but continued to teach at the school and referee girls basketball games. Harada did not respond to a question about whether district officials requested that Ball step down as coach.
Salem police investigated Ball’s conduct in 2021 following a report, Salem police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Hardy said. He did not detail what the report alleged and said he could not provide further information.
The Marion County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the matter in December 2021 and did not charge Ball with a crime. Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy said prosecutors determined there was “insufficient information to prove criminal conduct beyond a (reasonable) doubt.” Murphy said he could not comment on the nature of the allegations made in the 2021 matter because reports of child abuse are confidential under state law.
Ball graduated from Western Oregon University in 2001, according to his online portfolio. He spent around a decade as an athletic trainer at McKay High School, treating student athletes after injuries. He was the head boys golf coach there for a season in 2010.
While working as a behavioral specialist at Judson Middle School in 2016, he was promoted to head coach of the Crosshill Christian girls basketball team, according to a profile from the Statesman Journal at the time. He had previously been the assistant coach for the boys basketball team in the 2013-14 season.
His salary at North is $89,512.
Students on Friday chanted “remove Trever Ball” and “no more predators” and carried signs reading “Kids Safety First” and “Don’t Silence Students.”
Mendoza, Vipperman and teammates wore white shirts with a red canceled symbol over the word “pedophile.”
They said they still feel anxiety seeing their former coach in the hall at school, and teared up during interviews when describing Ball’s behavior.
“I felt like there’s no one we could go to because the school didn’t do anything about it and the police didn’t do anything about it,” Mendoza said.
“All of it was just swept under the rug,” Vipperman said.
Abbey McDonald contributed reporting.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.