Friday Feb 10 2012
UPDATE - Former Colfax Coach arrested on sexual abuse charges
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Former students and parents react to arrest, allegations
Some members of the tight-knit community of Colfax say they are in shock after learning a long-time former coach and teacher was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse. Former Colfax High School snowboard coach, computer science teacher and snowboard district coordinator Belden Morgan, also known as Jack Morgan, 70, of Auburn, was arrested on Thursday on charges of alleged continual sexual abuse of a child, punishable by 15 years to life in prison. The arrest was made by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office Thursday night, according to Lieutenant Mark Reed. The office issued a release about the arrest Friday. “We can confirm that he was arrested last night,” Reed said Friday. “We were made aware of the allegations. They are past allegations that happened some time ago and we conducted an investigation and made the arrest.” The release said the alleged abuse “happened several years ago.” Reed said he could not disclose any more details about the arrest and ongoing investigation. Morgan, who retired from the snowboard coaching staff in March, is still the District II Snowboard Coordinator for the California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation. He taught computer science at the high school from 1998 to 2004. Reed said the school has been notified and law enforcement is continuing the investigation to see if any more students were involved. He could not disclose the number of alleged victims. Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent, said he could confirm Morgan taught and coached at Colfax High, but it was too soon for the district to comment any further. Colfax High School administrators did not return calls from The Journal. Placer County Jail records show Morgan was being held on $1.5 million bail as of press time Saturday. Parent Amy Townley, of Colfax, said she learned about the alleged abuse through a close friend. She said she would not name the friend to protect anonymity. “(Morgan) has been somebody I admired. It hasn’t been more than a couple of months ago that I said something nice about him,” Townley said. “I am skeptical of everyone now. I am looking at men very differently. Certainly the parents trusted him and certainly the kids trusted him.” Townley wonders if the media attention on allegations of Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse charges at Pennsylvania State University and other recent sexual abuse cases may have inspired the alleged victims to come forward. “I am wondering how much kids are finally seeing enough to realize they are the victim here,” Townley said. Brian Kirkegaard took over for Morgan as head coach of the Colfax High Snowboard Team from 2009-2011. During that time Morgan was still a part of the coaching staff and heavily involved in the program, in addition to his role as district coordinator. Kirkegaard first met Morgan as an eighth-grader and was coached by him all four years that he attended Colfax High. Kirkegaard said he just attended snowboard races with Morgan last weekend and was shocked to learn he had been arrested. “It’s hard for me to make an opinion on everything. I was just with him on Sunday at the last Northstar race and everything was just peachy,” Kirkegaard said. “This is like the last page and I have known him for so long to be one person, like from the first chapter, and this is just a page-turner.” Throughout his own time as a snowboarder and a coach, Kirkegaard said he has never once seen any indication that Morgan had or was sexually abusing students. “It doesn’t make sense at all,” Kirkegaard said. “I don’t know what to make of it. I have never seen him act in that manner…whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. I’ve never been suspicious of any foul play. I’ve known him for the last 10 years.” Dean Steinhoff, of Colfax, is the current head coach of the snowboard team. His daughter Nelly Steinhoff, now a junior, helped the team secure the overall California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation California State Championship last year. “I had two kids of my own that he has coached,” Steinhoff said. “As far as we are concerned Jack has always been a totally professional kind of guy. He has been the picture of professionalism and I know when we have traveled he always had made sure he had lodging away from us. I’m devastated by this news and I have always found his character and his actions to be beyond reproach.” Steinhoff said at this point he is going to wait to form an opinion and hopes it is some sort of misunderstanding. “We all think very highly of him. I am very hopeful that the outcome of this is going to be good,” Steinhoff said. “The terrible thing about any kind of allegations like this, even if he is totally vindicated, your whole reputation still has a black eye.” Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org.