Judge denies Kiona-Benton City High School coach’s request for anti-harassment order

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 25, 2014 

A judge has denied a request for an anti-harassment order against Kiona-Benton City School Board President Tim Cook by Holly Graham, the high school girls wrestling coach.

Graham had requested Cook be forced to not contact or come near her. Judge Terry Tanner ruled Tuesday in Benton County District Court that there wasn't enough evidence of harassment.

Cook called a few witnesses and answered a few questions from the judge, he said.

Cook told the Herald that the entire situation is a result of the coach allegedly harassing his daughter, Britnee, who wrestles for the team.

"I was protecting my kid," he said. "I feel like I should be able to protect my kid."

Graham could not be reached for comment.

Cook went down to the gym floor three times during a recent meet at Richland High School to watch his daughter wrestle, Graham said in court documents. That prompted security to tell Graham he needed to remain in the stands because he's a parent.

On the third time, Graham was speaking with athletic director Vance Wing and interim Superintendent Wade Haun about her concerns when Cook broke into the conversation, pointed his finger at Graham and yelled at her, prompting Wing and Haun to intercede, she said.

Graham was shaken by the incident, which was witnessed by her daughter and a few other girls, she said, and she has been afraid to come onto school district property.

Cook said a Richland coach gave him a coach's identification bracelet and he was permitted to be down on the mat. In his version of events, he only briefly addressed Graham at the meet before directing his comments to Wing.

"Never did I feel I was bullying or harassing anyone," Cook said.

The relationship between Graham and Brittnee Cook has been a recurring problem the entire wrestling season, Cook said.

Graham insisted Brittnee wear a cover over her headgear during one meet, Cook said. When Brittnee removed it during a match because it kept slipping down to her face, Graham reportedly stopped the match and demanded she wear it or she'd pull her out. A referee said the cover wasn't required and allowed the match to continue.

District officials had agreed to keep Graham off the mat during Brittnee's matches, Cook said, though that didn't happen at the recent meet.

Cook also alleged there have been issues with cyberbullying through social media connected to the girls wrestling team that he said Graham failed to address.

Cook has met with Wing and head wrestling coach Ben Hill several times to resolve the situation, he said. Graham has not been present at those meetings.

"I've talked to this woman a total of three minutes this year," Cook said.

While acknowledging that he is the school board president, Cook said he did not use his position to influence the situation.

He always made a point during meetings with Wing and other officials on the matter that he was there as a parent, he said.

"I'm just the same as anyone else," Cook said. "I go down there and do a job two times a month. That doesn't make me special."

Calls to Wing were not returned Tuesday.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service