Our View: There’s lots of blame to go around

Terrebonne Parish Recreation was in the news this week – again for the wrong reasons.

WWL-TV Channel 4 did Eyewitness News report this week, which determined that Derrian Williams had a hand in coaching a TPR All-Star Biddy Basketball girls’ U8 team.

Williams has coached youth basketball for many years and has actually enjoyed a great deal of on-court success, helping guide TPR to several Biddy International Championships.

But Williams’ position came into serious question after he was arrested in Feb. 2017 after being accused of picking up an underage girl from Biloxi and smoking marijuana with her on the road back to Houma.

Once back to Houma, Williams is accused of telling the woman that she would have sex with him in order to pay her debt for the ride to Louisiana. Williams also allegedly told the woman that she would have to perform sexual favors for other clients before getting to return home to Mississippi.

The purpose of this editorial is not to assume guilt nor innocence about Williams. He is set to have a trial for the charges of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. That trial is set for Sept. 4 and the courts will decide his guilt or innocence.

But the purpose of this editorial is to say that the fact that Williams was allowed to coach a youth sports team in this area while his charges were still pending is absolutely unacceptable and an irresponsible act by all parties involved. The children on that team were all cheated by the poor decision making of adults.

After Williams’ arrest, TPR tried to do the right thing, reportedly meeting with Williams and his father and deciding that the embattled coach would no longer be able to represent the organization.

Former TPR Director Sterling Washington reportedly delivered that news to the family and it was agreed that Williams would not take the bench for the All-Star season.

But no one within TPR ever saw that the rule was enforced, which led to it being broken, this scandal coming to light and the eventual resignation of Washington from TPR.

The Times has done a lot of work covering TPR and Washington was a source in several of our stories on the department. We believe him to be a good man. Others in the community agree and have come to his defense on social media and others planned to attend yesterday’s Terrebonne Parish Council Meeting on his behalf.

But this was an error that is hard to overlook and we believe that the decision to resign and get a new face in the department is a good one – one which could hopefully bring closure to this situation.

But we do not stop at laying fault onto TPR for this situation.

We also lay blame to Biddy Basketball, as well.

TPR should not have allowed Williams to coach, but Biddy Basketball should alter its rules and create safeguards to eliminate coaches with criminal records from being in position to work with children.

Our Managing Editor, Casey Gisclair, is a youth sports coach with South Lafourche Biddy Basketball and he has shared with us that the only safeguards in place to screen coaches is a requirement that they take a sportsmanship course online.

He says that there are other coaches within the organization who have displayed questionable behavior in their handling of youth.

This is not good enough.

Now is the time for Biddy Basketball and all local youth sports organizations to implement background checks before placing someone in position to be a coach.

What makes Williams’ situation worse is not as much that it happened but more how avoidable it was and how easily it could have been prevented.

His arrest was viral. Most everyone in Houma was aware of his situation.

But yet nothing was done to stop it from taking place.

That is sad.

Our children deserve better.

The parents who pay hard-earned money to place their children in youth sports deserve better, too.

They need to know that when giving their children to a recreation department that they are being mentored by a role model in the community.

Anything else is just not good enough.