Internal emails from the Paradise Valley Unified School District indicate that officials did not rush to bar former NBA star Mike Bibby from coaching at Shadow Mountain High School (Phoenix) until after The Arizona Republic began asking about an allegation of sexual abuse, even though district officials had been made aware of an active Phoenix police investigation more than a week earlier.
The Republic requested all email communication to and from district officials regarding Bibby from Feb. 1, 2018, to Feb. 26, 2019, the day after The Republic revealed the abuse allegation against the coach.
None of the emails provided under state public-records law discusses any possible district action against Bibby until Feb. 25.
Becky Kelbaugh, spokeswoman for the Paradise Valley Unified School District, said in a statement following the release of the emails on Thursday that Feb. 25 was the first time the district received information about the allegation directly from the teacher who made the allegation.
Superintendent James Lee echoed that.
“We did not receive first-hand information until Monday, Feb. 25th after the championship game,” Lee wrote in an emailed statement. “We would never put allowing a coach to coach in a state championship over doing the right thing. The Phoenix Police Department directed the district not to disclose that they were conducting an investigation about the coach.”
In a statement last month, Kelbaugh wrote that Phoenix police notified the district on Feb. 14 of an investigation into alleged sexual abuse of a Shadow Mountain staff member by Bibby.
The Shadow Mountain varsity boys basketball team, which Bibby coached on a voluntary basis, won its seventh state championship on Feb. 23, nine days after police notified the district of its investigation. Bibby was coach for five of those championship titles.
In a restraining order served to Bibby on Feb. 25, a Shadow Mountain High teacher claimed that Bibby sexually abused her.
She claimed that in February 2017, he lifted her by the waist and pulled her into his car on school grounds, rubbing his genitals against her and groping her until she was able to get away.
How the Bibby allegation spread
Though the claim against Bibby emerged in mid-February, it wasn’t until late in the month that he was ousted as coach, his badge and access to the school deactivated.
Here’s a timeline, according to the restraining order, district statements and email records:
- Feb. 8: The teacher told a colleague about sexual abuse by Bibby in February 2017, according to the restraining order.
- Feb. 11: The colleague reported the incident to Shadow Mountain’s school-resource officer. An email shows David Appleman, Shadow Mountain’s principal, was also aware of the abuse claim on Feb. 11, through a third party whose name is redacted. Appleman wrote to Michelle Otstot, an official with the district’s human-resources department, about the claims.
- Feb. 13: The school-resource officer met with the teacher at her home to discuss what the colleague reported, according to the restraining order.
- Feb. 14: An official from Phoenix Police Department informed the district of an investigation into the Bibby allegation, according to a statement from the district. This prompted the district to suspend its own internal investigation, Kelbaugh wrote.
- Feb. 23: Shadow Mountain’s varsity boys basketball team won the state championship game, with Bibby as coach.
- Feb. 25: The Republic obtained a copy of the restraining order. In the afternoon, a reporter asked the district about the allegations. After the district responded to the reporter with a statement, human-resources officials internally shared over email what was labeled as “Mike Bibby 2-25-19 Letter of Ineligibility as a Volunteer” on Google docs. At 7 p.m., another HR official asked in an email that Bibby’s district badge be deactivated. The district added in a statement that officials received the injunction on Feb. 25, the first time, Kelbaugh wrote, that they obtained first-hand information.
- Feb. 26: As the allegations began making national headlines, Otstot asked school officials in an email whether Bibby had any keys to Shadow Mountain facilities. Appleman replied, “I can confirm that Mike Bibby was not issued, nor is in possession of, keys to the SMHS facilities.”
Bibby investigated last year for obscenities
The emails also revealed that the internal investigation into the sexual-abuse claim wasn’t the first district investigation into Bibby.
In February 2018, several people complained to Appleman over email about a Bleacher Report article in which Bibby was quoted as telling Shadow Mountain’s players a few hours before a game, “Put those motherf–kers in the hole we’re gonna dig for them … We’re gonna kick their ass like we’re supposed to do.”
At another point in the story, he’s quoted as exclaiming, “Them motherf–kers are coming at ‘cha head.”
Appleman, the principal, responded to one of the emailed complaints: “Clearly the quotes in the article attributed to Coach Bibby are not in line with the tradition of excellence and sportsmanship that we try to exemplify at SMHS. We are currently investigating the situation.”
A month later, in March 2018, Appleman emailed one of the people who complained — after they asked for an update — that the investigation into Bibby was complete. Its findings were addressed with Shadow Mountain’s athletic director and coaches, he wrote. He doesn’t detail what, if any, punishment was given.
“I am confident that our coaches will reflect the expectations of our school and our district,” Appleman wrote. “There is no room for inappropriate language or poor sportsmanship at SMHS.”
The person who complained wrote back: “The entire exercise seems useless” without an apology from Bibby. It appears that Appleman never responded.