BOW — The Bow High School girls’ cross-country team head coach, Barbara Higgins, has been suspended from her coaching position due to alleged boundary issues with students, according to a letter written to team members’ parents by Dean Cascadden, superintendent of SAU 67, which serves schools in Bow and Dunbarton.
Higgins, a three-term member of the Concord School Board, was suspended on Sept. 25. She will remain suspended until the end of the investigation, which is expected to last beyond the upcoming NHIAA cross-country state championship meets scheduled for this Saturday. She has served as the team’s head coach since 2014.
Bow High School Winter Track and Field Head Coach Sara Krause will head the team until further notice.
Cascadden’s letter indicated there is still a pending review centering around adult-to-student boundaries, with SAU 67 continuing consultation with the New Hampshire Department of Education.
The letter also referenced concerns over SAU 67 policies on communication methods and transportation, as well as a alleged breach of the district’s policy regarding memorials of a deceased person.
Concord Patch reported that an anonymous email was sent to members of the media, the school board and others, attacking Higgins for attempting to assist a student dealing with the death of a family member.
Cascadden noted in his letter that there were also positive aspects of the team and coach shared in the investigation, which was completed by Bow High School Principal Brian O’Connell Oct. 7.
In a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Cascadden said he does not undertake any suspension lightly, due to the disruption it causes to both students and employees involved.
“This has been an incredibly difficult process and issue for our cross-country team to handle,” said Cascadden. “At this point, I know there’s been a lot of speculation about what’s going on. I’ve tried to be as transparent as possible while respecting the confidentiality required in a personnel issue. I want to assure people that we took this action only after much contemplation over what was needed.”
In an emailed statement to multiple sources, Higgins challenged the allegations and defended her interactions with student-athletes, refusing to apologize for offering emotional support to student-athletes and others in the Concord area over her 30 years in education.
“As everyone in the Concord community knows, I’m a very transparent and public person. While I can’t speak about the ongoing investigation, I’m disheartened by my recent suspension from the Bow High School girls’ cross-country coach position,” she said. “While I understand the need for the school district to follow through on all concerns raised by parents, students or the greater school community, I have done nothing wrong.”
Higgins described the experience as frustrating and said it came as a result of her extra efforts for student-athletes under her supervision.
According to the Concord Monitor, Higgins was a health teacher and cross-country coach at Concord High School until 2010, when then-Superintendent Chris Rath recommended her termination due to policy violations.