The Rapid City Journal finds it newsworthy to post a list of historic Rapid City Central High School figures who were really good at playing games. Among the honorees is Cobbler basketball coach Dave Strain. From 1963 to 1986, Strain coached the boys basketball team to the state tournament eighteen times. He was good enough at his job to be inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, while still coaching.
If the Sports Hall of Fame had waited a year, they might not have inducted Strain, as he was fired for making moves off the court:
On May 7, 1986, A.S., a sophomore student at Central High School in Rapid City, was contacted by a school counselor about attendance problems. The following morning, A.S., at the request of her parents, came in to visit the counselor. A.S. advised the counselor that her mother had been working overtime and consequently A.S. was not getting enough attention from her. Later that afternoon, A.S. came back and told the counselor that A.S. had to tell somebody that something was going on in her life that she could not handle. A.S. stated that she did not know whether to trust the counselor because she did not want anybody to know what she had to tell.
A.S. told the counselor that around November of 1985, Strain asked her and a friend to help him in the computer room and they did so. Soon after that Strain would put his hand on her knee. Although A.S. thought he was being overly friendly, it did not bother her. A.S. said that after a while Strain touched her in other places, including her breasts. One time Strain started to unbutton her top, but another teacher came along and A.S. hurriedly buttoned it up. On another occasion, Strain exposed himself, grabbed her hand and put it on his penis [South Dakota Supreme Court, David Strain v. Rapid City School Board, 1989.10.11].
Afraid of the backlash that could arise from challenging one of the most popular men in town, the student nonetheless found the courage to tell more of her story at the Rapid City School Board hearing on September 18, 1986:
At the hearing A.S. related the incidents of indecent exposure and sexual contact by Strain. A.S. further testified that one day Strain asked that she run off some grades for him after school. She testified that Strain turned off the light in the computer room, pushed her against the wall, had her unbutton her jeans, pulled them down and then had intercourse with her.
A.S. acknowledged that she had not told the principal or the sheriff's department that Strain had intercourse with her. A.S. testified that she was afraid of what they would think of her, and she was afraid no one would believe her because of Strain's position. Strain was a tenured teacher at Rapid City Central High School with 25 years of teaching experience. While at Rapid City Central High School, he taught several subjects, and was a well-known and successful basketball coach. Additionally, Strain was active in involving Native Americans in athletics, academic and civic matters [Strain v. Rapid City, 1989].
A Central graduate testified that Strain had sexually harassed her in school a few years before the 1986 incidents. The Rapid City School Board concluded the evidence was solid enough to fire Strain.
These two women will likely never be celebrated in the Rapid City Journal for bravery or civic responsibility. They will likely never receive accolades from a hall of fame for protecting other young women from Strain's predations. We have our cultural priorities.
I tell this story with very personal caution. Interested parties can track down a court transcript of my own conflict with a school board that fired me for poor performance and unprofessional conduct in a South Dakota high school. Readers may review that unhappy story and discount any of my prior or subsequent achievements as they see fit.
But Strain's history and ongoing recognition raise this question: How long must the asterisk remain next to a successful citizen's name? What harm do we do the victims of his crimes by forgetting that asterisk?