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Lake Region College staff knew of former softball coach's 'inappropriate relationship' with student, school says

DEVILS LAKE -- Two Lake Region State College administrators and a volleyball coach face disciplinary action after an investigation found they failed to report an inappropriate relationship between a former softball coach and student.

Lloyd Halvorson, the school’s vice president of academic and student affairs, recommended Athletic Director Danny Mertens and Student Services Director Stephanie Shock be suspended without pay, while head volleyball coach Brigitte Greywater receive a formal written reprimand.

Halvorson recommended Mertens serve a three-day suspension and Shock be suspended for five days, saying all three employees were dedicated to the college, “demonstrated a high level of competence in the past, and have never been formally reprimanded during their time at LRSC.”

“This is a proportional response and consistent with the principles of graduated discipline,” Halvorson said in a statement Thursday.

The recommendations follow the investigation into claims head softball coach Ben Morris was involved in a consensual relationship. The investigation began June 27 and has since concluded, according to a news release issued Thursday.

This is the first time the school has acknowledged the relationship involved a student.

Morris’s contract as a first-year coach with LRSC expired June 30, and Halvorson said he made the decision not to invite him back as a coach.

“He wasn’t terminated,” Halvorson said. “He did not suffer disciplinary action.”

Mertens, Shock and Greywater were “not involved in anything sexual or sexual misconduct themselves,” Halvorson told the Herald on Thursday, but they failed to report the incident involving Morris.

“All LRSC employees are expected to perform their duties in the best interests of LRSC and its students,” Halvorson said in his statement. “We determined that Mertens, Shock and Greywater failed to comply with LRSC reporting obligations, which interfered with the institution’s ability to identify and respond to the inappropriate relationship.”

Corry Kenner, vice president of administrative affairs, has until the end of the business day on Tuesday to review the recommendations before deciding whether to approve them.

Meanwhile, the school is taking steps to identify “educational awareness training activities related to reporting obligations,” according to the release. It plans to look into “a more robust consensual relationships policy” for the institution.

“We want to reassure everyone that the well-being of our students is our top priority and we are committed to ongoing education, prevention and policies related to this issue,” Halvorson said in his statement

Shock has been with the school since September 2006, according to her LinkedIn page.

Mertens was named the school’s athletic director in late 2013 and is the head coach for the women’s basketball team. He has been a part of LRSC athletics since 2006.

Greywater has been the school’s head volleyball coach for four years and also is the director of counseling.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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