The Gettysburg Area High School girls’ tennis team is beginning its fall season without an official coach.
The district’s school board again decided not to act on a recommendation from its administration to reinstate Sasha Yates, who has coached the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams since 2018. The boys’ tennis team is not affected because they play in the spring sports season.
At the Aug. 21 meeting, the Gettysburg Area School District’s Board of Directors voted to remove Yates from the administration’s list of recommended hires. Yates, who is transgender, was listed on the agenda by her legal name of David. She has been the district’s tennis coach since 2018.
A vote on Yates’ reinstatement was first considered at the Aug. 7 meeting when board members Michelle Smyers, Timon Linn, and Al Moyer voted not to reinstate Yates as a coach. Board President Kenny Hassinger, as well as Tim Seigman, and Jeremy Davis voted for Yates to be named coach. Michael Dickerson abstained and AmyBeth Hodges and Ryan Morris were absent.
At Monday’s meeting, Dickerson recommended the board remove the discussion of Yates’ contract from the agenda. Linn and Hodges opposed the agenda change. The others, excluding Hassinger who was absent, supported Dickerson’s motion.
Because state law does not allow public discussion of personnel issues, it is not publicly known why Yates’ candidacy is seen as unacceptable to some board members.
Dickerson said in an interview after the meeting that he suggested the board pull the administration’s recommendation so members had time to digest the abundance of public comment.
After the meeting, Superintendent Jason Perrin said he was unsure if the administration would recommend Yates for a third time. The board next meets on Sept. 5.
The board moved Monday’s meeting from the district administration building to the Gettysburg Area Middle School Auditorium due to an anticipated large crowd. Thirty people, most of whom supported Yates, addressed the board.
Steve Carbaugh told the board his daughter saw Yates in the girls’ bathroom in April. Carbaugh said he addressed his concern with High School Principal Jeremy Lusk. Carbaugh claimed Yates later changed clothes in the women’s locker room with the girls’ soccer team.
When asked after the meeting, Perrin said the district does not have a policy pertaining to bathroom use.
John Wega expressed concern about Yates being reinstated as a coach. Wega cited a National Institutes of Health study that states 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide. Chad-Alan Carr, a member of the Gettysburg Borough Council and chair of Gettysburg Pride, agreed with Wega’s data but claimed the suicides are due to the students not having a strong support system. Carr, who is gay, shared that he considered suicide as a teenager but a strong mentor convinced him to live.
Paul Kellett, a Freedom Township supervisor and parent, agreed. “If you are concerned about protecting kids, have role models they can look up to,” he said.
Alexandra Escalera said she believed the core of the issue is not Yates’ qualifications or performance as a coach. Escalera encouraged the board to clarify what she referred to as “the bathroom issue.”
Numerous others told stories of Yates’ mentorship on and off the court.
“Coach Yates is one of a very, very few people who got me through that high school experience,” Chelsea Zimmann, GAHS Class of 2021, said.
Janet Riggs, chair of the Gettysburg Borough Human Relations Council, acknowledged fear of a lawsuit. “Discrimination based on gender identity could, and should, lead to a claim against the school district,” Riggs said.
Tennis coach’s response
When asked for comment after the meeting, Yates turned the attention to the tennis players.
“My kids do not have a coach,” Yates said. “This should solely be about the student-athletes.”
When asked who was coaching the team, Perrin said “a plethora of individuals.” Dickerson acknowledged the team is not receiving the support it would from Yates.
“They might not be up to Coach Yates’ caliber, but they are qualified to cover practices,” he said.
Featured Image: Gettysburg Area High School’s most recent tennis coach, Sasha Yates, stands outside the district’s middle school following the Aug. 21 board meeting. (Photo by Alex J. Hayes)
Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
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