Track coach pleads guilty to sex crimes

Mugshot of Khari Dobbins. (Photo Courtesy of the Stockton Police Department)

Mugshot of Khari Dobbins. (Photo Courtesy of the Stockton Police Department)

Gabriella Backus, Editor-In-Chief

On March 10, 2019, the Stockton Police Department posted on its Facebook page that 26-year-old Bear Creek jump track coach Khari Dobbins was arrested for having sexual relations with a 16-year-old Bear Creek student.  The sudden news seemed to leave the community in a state of pain and confusion.

The Bear Creek Athletic Foundation Facebook page issued a statement from Principal Hillary Harrell soon after, expressing concern for the students mentally affected by the news.  The arrest occurred over spring break, and left with a week to recover, the statement said a mental health therapist would be at Bear Creek on Friday, March 15, to “meet with students and parents who may be struggling with the difficult social and emotional issues” and to recommend resources for families who need extra support.

Harrell says the therapist was originally opened to the track and field athletes, but was also made available for others, such as students who were familiar with Dobbins and students who had concerns and issues.

Athletic Director Jason Johnson said he is also chiefly concerned with students’ recovery.

“My primary concern is for the safety of our students, which is paramount to all else,” Johnson said.  “Right now our focus should be on healing and that those who are charged with bringing justice to any victim would prevail.”

Dobbins was employed by the Bear Creek Athletic Department for the 2018-2019 school year as the track and field jump coach prior to his arrest.  Co-head track and field coach and English Language (EL) Support teacher Adam Bates said he was favored by his athletes.

“[Dobbins was the] most well-liked coach [and] he ran our Twitter page,” Bates said.  “He just seemed to get along with the kids, maybe because of a smaller age gap.  He probably had the closest bond with his athletes.”

In fact, it is that very bond that led to the arrest.  Bates said the coaches had not heard of any incidents before the arrest, but he regrets not noticing warning signs he now sees in hindsight.

“In retrospect, he was really close with his female athletes, and [athletes] value that [bond], but when I think about it later, most of his athletes were female,” Bates said.

The background screening process for paid coaches includes a fingerprint clearance through the district office, and confirmation of a tuberculosis (TB) test and First Aid and American Sport Education Program (ASEP) training.  There are no current plans to update the policy, despite some saying Dobbins’ questionable past should have disqualified him as a coach.

“The people in charge need to pay closer attention to their staff and be more involved and present,” an anonymous parent of a Bear Creek track and field athlete said.  “There is such a shortage of teachers and coaches these days, districts may be quick to just put someone in a position without thorough review.”

“Everyone can see that many female students had a crush on him and would always hover around,” senior Niya Gaines, a track athlete, said.  “I felt that he’d indulge in that and entertain that instead of holding out a stiff arm.”

Despite the controversy, senior Shayan Zaman, a track athlete, remembers Dobbins as a loving mentor.

“The track team looked up to him as an older brother and he would treat everyone like siblings,” Zaman said.  “Everyone who did jumps looked forward to working with him [and] was in shock about the whole thing.”

According to the official San Joaquin County District Attorney Facebook, Dobbins’ trial took place on April 22, where he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual intercourse with a minor.  He will return to court June 3 for his sentencing and is expected to receive a one year jail sentence, five years of formal probation and be forbidden to engage in coaching youth sports.  Dobbins must also register as a sex offender.

Dobbin’s old position has been filled by Eloise Mallory.

Co-head track and field coach Stanley Wells was contacted but declined to comment for this article.