Shelby Community Defends Accused School Resource Officer

  • 10/15/2019 7:32:16 PM
  • Jesse Smith
  • Local News

SHELBY, OHIO - Emotions ran high on Tuesday night as the Shelby City Schools Board of Education held a special meeting to consider complaints against a well-regarded coach and police officer.

Officer Keith Swisher, the School Resource Officer and Head Coach of the Girls Soccer Team at Shelby High School, was placed on paid administrative leave from the Shelby Police Department and was suspended from his coaching duties after allegations arose that he had inappropriately walked through a girls' locker room at the school's field house while students were using the area. After two parallel investigations by supervisors (including an internal policy violation investigation and a criminal investigation), the Shelby Police Department reinstated Officer Swisher, with Police Chief Lance Combs stating the following:

Officer Swisher did in fact pass through the female side of the Field House on more than one occasion in order to access the coaching offices to change for soccer practice. This occurred prior to the official start of school while off-duty and also on at least one occasion off-duty but while in uniform after the start of the school year. No female student athletes were undressed when he passed through. At no time did he stop, loiter, linger, or engage with the athletes in the locker room. While there is a shower facility in that locker room, it is used as storage and not actively as a shower. There are no restroom facilities in that locker room.

The Field House is a symmetrically designed building with a common area at the front and coaching offices at the rear. There are male and female doors at the front of the building from the common area, but the large locker rooms on both the male and female sides must be walked through to reach either the track and field area or the coaching offices.

It was on Tuesday night that many parents and students voiced their opinion on the issue when a special Board of Education Meeting was held to discuss or consider discipline or dismissal of Swisher after the complaints. Several parents were upset over the allegations, hoping that the matter would be thoroughly investigated and that if any wrongdoing was suspected, that school officials would take action.

"My daughter says she's not comfortable with it, and I'm not comfortable with it," said one parent who spoke at Tuesday night's meeting. "I hope you guys do the right thing and take care of it."

Many who attended spoke in favor of Swisher's reinstatement with the school system.

"We are one of the most overbearing, over-protective parent couples that I know of," said one man whose daughter was on the soccer team. "I would trust my daughter with [Swisher] anytime. It would be a disservice to the school and to the kids if he wasn't brought back."

Other speakers in the room quickly echoed that sentiment, upholding Officer Swisher's character and integrity as a man who could never do anything inappropriate to or with those who look up to him.

"He took every precaution to make sure a situation like this never happened," said Nina Blake, a teacher at Shelby Middle School who helped coach with Swisher. "I went into the locker room most of the time beforehand and every conversation we had with the girls, we did together so that nothing like this would ever happen. He is a loyal man. I wouldn't have been out there with him if I didn't think so. What's being brought against him is false or taken out of context; he is a good, good, good man...he's an amazing coach, he knows what he's doing, and he loves those girls from the bottom of his heart. I really hope you do the right thing and bring him back."

One of the meeting's public speakers, Shelby Mayor Steven Schag, also spoke to Swisher's reputation as a great officer with the City of Shelby and as a role model for the students.

"When he took the role of School Resource Officer, my heart leapt within me," Schag said. "I couldn't think of anyone better for that position than Officer Swisher. I would say unequivocally that I would stake my reputation on this man's impeccable character and his integrity. I have two young granddaughters, and I would trust them with Officer Swisher anytime, anywhere."

The Board went into executive session following public commentary. No action has been decided upon or taken at this time.

SEE ALSOShelby Girls Soccer Coach, SRO Suspended Amid Investigation

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