NEWS- The accused: WAHS coach 'didn't drink,' says Longwood coach

It's springtime, the time of year when underage drinking incidents blossom. A boozy teen showing up in class on May Day led to the arrest of JV softball coach Alisha Stewart.

Western Albemarle High School was shaken by the arrest of the second employee this spring for inappropriate conduct toward students in unrelated incidents.

 JV softball coach Alisha D. Stewart, 24, of Faber was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor May 3 after an allegedly inebriated 15-year-old girl was removed from class May 1.

The Hook was unable to reach Stewart, and police say that unlike some coaches, she is not a teacher at Western, and there is no evidence that she supplied booze to any other students. 

The sobriety-impaired teen did allege Coach Stewart had provided alcohol on one other occasion, according to Albemarle police Lieutenant John Teixeira. He says it's unlikely any further charges will be filed against Stewart.

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

However, Stewart's softball coach at Longwood University, from which Stewart graduated in 2005, doesn't recall any alcohol propensities.

"Alisha didn't drink. She didn't cuss. She was introverted," says Longwood's head softball coach Kathy Riley. "As a coach, you can tell which players drink. "You kinda know."

Stewart played on the Longwood team as a walk-on, says Riley. "She wasn't a kid on a scholarship. I have respect for that."

As for Stewart providing alcohol to an underage player she was coaching, "It would shock me a tremendous amount, because she's not that type of individual," says Riley. "That's not her character. I can't see her in the position to make that choice. When she played here, she was above reproach as far as alcohol and language."

Albemarle police have charged the underage drinker with one count of alcohol possession. She possibly will face consequences at Western for coming to school under the influence, says Diane Behrens, Albemarle schools executive director of support services. 

The juvenile also faces the county's severe sanctions for breaking athletic training rules, which toss a violator off the team for 30 days.

The School Board currently is taking another look at the training rules, which include the proviso that parents pledge to rat out their tippling teens, and will discuss revised rules at the May 10 meeting. In late March, Rutherford Institute director John Whitehead sent a letter to the School Board expressing Constitutional concerns about the pledge.

Among the changes, the training rule may soon be less draconian– especially on a first offense– and treatment will be offered. Parents will not be required to turn in their children, nor will students be prohibited from using alcohol during religious ceremonies or under their parents' supervision in accordance with the Code of Virginia. And the training rules will be expanded beyond athletes to include all students involved in extracurricular activities– unless it's one for which they're graded.

Stewart, who coached for Western Albemarle last year, has been suspended, says Behrens. "I will be taking a recommendation to the School Board for her dismissal [this] week."

Police did not provide a mugshot of Coach Stewart, who was released on her own recognizance. "If you're not processed, and if you're released on your own recognizance, there's no mugshot," explains Teixeira.

However, three of the "UVA BB Gun 4 also were released on their own recognizance, but mugshots were taken of them. "It really is up to the magistrate," says Teixeira.

Earlier this spring, another former Western Albemarle employee was charged for inappropriate behavior toward students. Currently sitting in jail is Richard Neal Willetts, 26, who taught social studies at Western during the 2005-06 school year. He faces federal charges of sexually enticing minors over the Internet, including two Western students, a Fluvanna County High student, and one from Hawaii. And he directed the Secret Garden during his brief Western tenure.

Behrens calls the two springtime arrests "an unfortunate coincidence." Says Behrens, "We expect school employees to serve as role models, and we're disappointed."