Longtime Federal Way High School basketball coach Jerome Collins reacts during the team’s 2016 state championship game. File photo

Longtime Federal Way High School basketball coach Jerome Collins reacts during the team’s 2016 state championship game. File photo

Police investigating sex offense involving Federal Way basketball coach accused of scandal cover-up

Student files $3.5 million claim against school district

The Federal Way Police Department has reopened a 2016 voyeurism case as an active criminal investigation involving Federal Way High School’s head basketball coach, Jerome Collins.

A former Federal Way High School student is suing the Federal Way Public Schools district, accusing Collins of intentionally covering up a sex scandal to save the school’s chance of a state championship.

Tally Thomas, now 19, filed a tort claim against the district on Monday for $3.5 million, according to King 5.

“On October 15, 2018, the district was served a tort claim. This was the first time the district was made aware of the allegations,” said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for the FWPS district in an email, noting the district immediately launched an investigation in the matter.

Whenever the district receives allegations of this nature, they follow a process that includes administrative leave to protect the integrity of the investigation and the rights of all involved, Swenson said.

The Mirror could not reach Thomas for comment.

According to King 5, Thomas was romantically involved with a player on the Eagles varsity basketball team during her sophomore year of high school.

Thomas alleges “she was video taped against her will and without her knowledge performing oral sex on a unnamed Federal Way High School basketball player and that the recording was viewed by several other students,” according to the Oct. 16 Federal Way police report. “The claim also alleged that head basketball coach, Jerome Collins, was aware of this incident, had watched the video in question, and failed to report the situation to the authorities.”

Another similar incident involving an undisclosed person, mentioned in the police report with names redacted, details a different female student had also been filmed from a closet without her permission while she performed sex acts on another male student.

Police were notified of the alleged voyeurism incidents in 2016, however the detective was unable to establish probable cause to support either allegation and the case was closed, according to Federal Way Police Department statement.

Thomas found out about the video when it began circulating in a basketball team group chat a year later and peers began to talk in the hallways, the King 5 report continues.

Once the bullying became unbearable at school, Thomas decided to tell her parents, King 5 reported. Upon finding out, Thomas’ father, a former football coach for Auburn Riverside High School, went to the boys basketball practice and informed coach Jerome Collins of the situation, according to the report.

All parties agreed to a meeting, which included only Thomas, the two players involved and Collins, King 5 reported.

Thomas told King 5 that Collins explained the consequences of what could happen to the basketball players if word got out and discouraged her from reporting the situation.

So Thomas kept quiet. And the Eagles varsity basketball team ended up winning the state championship.

Thomas was a star athlete at Federal Way; she won a state title for wrestling in 2017 and earned a softball scholarship to play for Stanford University.

Her breaking point came during her freshman year at Stanford when Thomas attempted suicide, she told King 5.

According to the Federal Way police report, officer J. McConnell, currently assigned to FWHS as a school resource officer, said he received a call on Oct. 16 from FWPS district attorney, Alexandria Sheridan to report the criminal incident from 2016.

“Alexandria explained that she is a mandatory reporter and advised that she was obligated to report the sexual misconduct that she had just become aware of,” the report continues.

McConnell attempted to reach Thomas at her residence, but upon asking if she would be willing to provide a statement to him about the alleged misconduct, she advised she didn’t want to speak without talking to her attorney.

Federal Way Police Department Commander Kurt Schwan said the department was made aware of the tort claim filed with the school district on Oct. 16.

“From that point on, we may have cooperating witnesses that we’re looking to interview,” Schwan said, noting that as a result, the department reopened the previous 2016 case on Oct. 18.

This isn’t the first time the embattled coach has been accused of misconduct. Students also accused Collins of sexual misconduct in the 1990s.

A Federal Way School District investigation that was launched after two former students accused him of sexual harassment in 1994 was inconclusive in establishing that sexual harassment occurred, according to a letter from Thomas Murphy, then-assistant superintendent, to Collins. However, the investigation found instances of Collin’s poor judgment.

“This poor judgment has been displayed in slapping female students on the buttocks and inappropriate joking with female students,” according to the letter. “The inappropriate joking refers to the necklace incident of which you are familiar and also inappropriate remarks whispered to a third student. You are hereby formally reprimanded for this conduct. A copy of this reprimand will be placed in your personnel file. You should understand that any further incidents of this nature will lead to more severe disciplinary action. The maintenance of proper boundaries of behavior between teachers and students is extremely important to teacher and student alike.”

The district instructed him to obtain training for this incident by June 1995 to help him “more clearly establish proper boundaries for your relationships and interactions with female students.”

In addition, a student filed a complaint against the coach in 1999 that stated he “constantly asked her to kiss him, said he wanted to see her naked, rubbed her stomach and kissed her,” according to a Seattle Times article.

Although a FWPS district human resources lawyer then determined the accusations as credible, Collins was never fired and the district officials at the time did not punish Collins due to “difficulty in ‘sustaining termination or other disciplinary action,’” according to the article.

Collins has been the Federal Way boys basketball coach for more than 30 years, bringing home three state championships during his time.

Collins was inducted into the Federal Way Hall of Fame in 2016.

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