Ashland removes coach in abuse incident

The Ashland School District has opted to find a new high school swim coach after the former coach was cited by police last month for allegedly failing to report child abuse — a charge that stemmed from a sexual relationship that occurred between a 14-year-old girl on the team and the former coach's 24-year-old son, who was a volunteer swim coach at the time.

Former swim coach Steve Mitzel of Ashland is still employed by the district as information technology director, but he is no longer Ashland High School's swim coach, said ASD Superintendent Jay Hummel.

"We've taken disciplinary action that we thought was appropriate for his misbehaviors ... but that's going to remain confidential, " Hummel said.

Prior to the beginning of this academic year, the Ashland High School online staff directory listed Mitzel as its IT director, but he is now only listed as IT director under the online staff directory for the district.

In August, Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness said that while it did not appear Mitzel had specific evidence of his son's misconduct with the freshman student, Mitzel "had been told that sexual activity had occurred."

Because Mitzel was a high school coach and employed at a public education institution — making him a state-mandated mandatory child-abuse reporter — he is required to pass along to authorities information of that nature.

State law requires mandatory reporters to tell authorities about any incidents of physical or sexual abuse of children if they have reasonable cause to believe the abuse has occurred. A mandatory reporter who violates this duty commits a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine, according to Adam Peterson, a Jackson County prosecutor who is not involved with the case.

Mandatory reporters include teachers, coaches, physicians, clergy, firefighters, law enforcement officers, social workers and more under Oregon Revised Statute 419B.005.

The senior Mitzel's son, Camren Michael Mitzel, of Ashland, initially pleaded not guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to four counts of third-degree rape and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse stemming from four alleged incidents with the freshman girl during the 2012-13 swim season.

Last week, Camren Mitzel amended his pleas to guilty on two of the second-degree sexual abuse charges. He appeared in the courtroom of Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia, court records show.

All of Camren Mitzel's additional charges were dismissed, and he was order to pay $200 for each conviction, records show.

Second-degree sexual abuse can be charged if the perpetrator is 21 or older and was the victim's coach, Holderness said. Camren Mitzel's alleged crimes were first reported to a separate agency, which then contacted APD to follow up with an investigation.

A several-week APD investigation determined that Camren Mitzel didn't use violence or physical force, police said.

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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