I respectfully submit this letter to the public, hoping that each media outlet that I send this to will show me the same respect they have shown every person who has recently been so willing to publically (sic) criticize a man they have never met. I know some time has passed and that this may be old news, but I wanted to allow this time for everyone to calm down and truly consider what I must express in the hope of returning some of the self-esteem and community standing this falsely accused man has lost.
Much has been said about Dan Hiatt in the past month, and perhaps I was wrong to sit by in silence. I naively believed that at some point someone in the media would contact Mr. Hiatt, and that those who were so willing to jump to conclusions would learn something about this man that might put some of these rumors to rest, or at the very least, quiet some of the furor going on in every media outlet in Central Oregon. As I have since learned, not a single person from the local television stations or newspapers has even attempted to contact him or uncover anything about him as a coach, a person, or what really happened that day between him and the young man he allegedly maligned.
I have attentively read everyone's opinions about a person they do not know, so please do me the same courtesy and let me tell you about Dan Hiatt, the man:
Dan Hiatt grew up in southern California. He attended high school in an area where at least 80% of the student body was Hispanic. He taught and coached on a Native American reservation in Montana for seven years. He coached and taught in Portland schools for almost twenty years where there was a high minority student body. He also served as Athletic Director at two Portland area high schools for five years. He has taught and coached at Madras High School for eight years. Altogether he has been teaching for 34 years and coaching for almost 30 years in areas where the majority of his students and athletes were not of his ethnicity, now we are led to believe that all of the sudden he has become a racist man, blithely throwing out comments that would hurt one of his very own athletes? I think not. And shame on you Jefferson County School Administration for not standing behind a man you have known and trusted with your children for almost a decade.
I know it would interest a lot of you to know what truly happened in that locker room. While it is not my place to enlighten you for legal reasons, I can assure you that never were the words 'hang', 'lynch', or anything along those lines uttered. What took place was simply a coach trying to get his player to practice right before a big game. Those of you who are, or have been, part of a team know the importance of every teammate's presence at practice for the good of the team. Maybe you can understand a team and a coach's frustration with those who take this commitment lightly. I agree that this dissatisfaction would not excuse any kind of hurtful comment to anyone; however, I will again state that I will never believe that there was any kind of malicious or racist intent on Mr. Hiatt's part. I feel I can safely say that the players who were present on that fateful day and clearly heard Mr. Hiatt's comments, as stated by them in interviews with the local television stations (which I know some of you who wrote letters saw and chose to ignore), would also agree with me on this subject.
Perhaps the biggest testament to Coach Hiatt's character is the fact that this allegedly "psychologically harmed" player did express that while he no longer wanted to be on the team, (with or without Mr. Hiatt as a coach, I might add), he did desire to remain in his PE class. Does this sound like someone who truly believed that his coach meant in any way to mentally or physically injure him? And yet all of the fallout from this alleged incident has irreparably damaged a man's reputation and his career, a devastation that will follow him throughout the remainder of his life.
So, to those of you who have so willingly jumped on the band wagon to pass judgment on Dan Hiatt just know that for those of us who have had the privilege and the honor to know and work with this man, to us he will always be "Coach."