Warnings over BG coach ignored: I-Team investigates

I-Team reveals school officials knew of trainer’s past offenses with minors
Warnings Ignored: Danger in Plain Sight
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 12:32 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2023 at 9:35 AM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (WTVG) - Warning signs ignored. That’s what the 13 Action News I-Team has uncovered in documents provided to Bowling Green City Schools about a trainer now facing more than a dozen charges including rape.

School leaders allowed him to be around kids even after a previous conviction and a full look at his background check. It has families whose children were around the person to ask why was he ever allowed around their kids.

When parents of Bowling Green High School basketball players were called in by the superintendent, principal and athletic director for a meeting in April of last year they believed they were getting the whole story. The I-Team showed them correspondence from the school showing they did not get the whole story.

Zachary Gibson can now be found in shackles as he participates in things like video court appearances at the Wood County jail. He’s scheduled for a September trial on 17 charges of including rape, gross sexual imposition, and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor.

Gibson was a strength and conditioning trainer for the boys basketball team at Bowling Green High School. He was not a district employee, instead employed by a third party company called Fastrak.

A Fastrak representative told the I-Team in 2022 that they were not aware of his background. His time with BG students came to an end in early April of 2022 when this letter from Superintendent Francis Scruci telling him he was not permitted on school property and was to cease all communication with student athletes.

“We clearly could have avoided this situation based on this information,” said BG schools parent Steve Bateson.

Bateson and Dan Keller have kids in the basketball program and were informed in that April meeting about allegations made against Gibson of having inappropriate contact with the kids. What they didn’t know is what the district knew about Gibson.

According to the Ada Herald newspaper police arrested Gibson in 2010, who was 18 at the time, in a park after police were alerted to text messages he had sent to a 14-year-old boy. Part of his sentence included sexual offender counseling and not to appear at any Ada High School events.

If BG school officials missed this, surely a background check would have illuminated issues. The district did have a background check.

The 13 Action News I-Team uncovered an email from November of 2021. It’s from the Diocese of Toledo addressed to the BG schools athletic director.

Here’s what it says: “I received a request from Zachary Gibson to forward his recent background reports. You will find the attached the BCI and FBI reports. Please be advised that Mr. Gibson was not cleared to minister youth within the Diocese of Toledo.”

“That’s a complete red flag for me. Anybody working with kids that gets background checks. If they have something on their record like this, they shouldn’t be able to work with kids,” said Keller.

The background check spells out the original charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, that was dropped. He was convicted of a lesser misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile. It also shows a violation of a protection order in May of 2011.

What parents still can’t wrap their heads around is how Gibson was allowed around kids after the district saw all this. Many don’t feel the district gave them the full story.

Superintendent Scruci was given this background check. Athletic director Michele Wolfe got it at 2:48pm on November 23, 2021. Documents obtained by the I-Team show it was sent to the superintendent at 3:03 pm, exactly 15 minutes later.

“It’s clear when we had the parent meeting in April of 2022 this wasn’t a new revelation to our superintendent. They were fully aware, based on the discovery you did, that they knew Zack Gibson’s background. The knew he had a prior history,” said Bateson.

As for the allegations against Gibson, the I-Team obtained emails last May between Wood County prosecutors and the Bowling Green school resource police officer Robin Short. She interviewed students and families to get a better idea of what happened.

According to her report, sometimes Gibson would text or snap the kids: “love ya buddy”. Police asked if Gibson ever asked for pictures. One student admitted to sharing pictures of his chest and wet hair after a shower. That student then said Gibson messaged that shower pics were supposed to be “in” the shower. There are even documented visits to Gibson’s apartment by the kids.

A Wood County grand jury indicted him on those most recent charges, including rape, in April of this year.

Superintendent Scruci, who retires later this year has repeatedly refused to comment to 13 Action News on this case dating back last year. This week he did send us a letter sent to parents in June and signed by school board president Ryan Myers.

Myers tells parents that Gibson was never “hired” as a staff member and that Gibson’s name was not known by any board member until the spring of 2022.

Remember we showed you the email where the athletic director and superintendent got his background check in November of 2021.

Myers says no policy or administrative guidelines were violated but they did change board policy last July. Policy 8142 now says a criminal background check is required for each person employed by a private company under contract with the board.

The district has Gibson’s background check and warning from the Diocese that they did not want him around children.

Gibson was supposed to be facing trial this week, but now it’s been pushed back to September.

Read the June 6 letter from the BGCS Board President to parents in the document below.