Gymnastics community in shock over abuse allegations

Created: 01/30/2014 10:18 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Albuquerque gymnastics community is reacting after a local coach is accused of inappropriately touching one of his students.

Russell Glanton is accused of touching the girl he coaches at ABQ Tumbling and Trampoline.

Police say the girl told them the 48-year-old put his fingers under her clothes during one of the classes. Court records show she named five other girls she says are also victims.

There is a handful of tumbling and gymnastics gyms in the Albuquerque area.

On Thursday, parents and the instructor of one of those gyms have a message for gymnastics parents as they react to the allegations.

"If the allegations are true, it's a huge breach of trust," said mom Cassaundra Jah.

Jah was picking up her kids from gymnastics class at Sandia Acrobatic Gymnastics Academy, and was one of many parents who we told about the allegations against a coach across town. 

"It's really devastating for the community I think to know that there was that kind of behavior going on anywhere close," said SAGA owner Erin Rice.

Rice said she was shocked to hear about the allegations against Glanton, whose gym is across town.

"I think in any sport or anywhere you have your kids, you have those risks," she said.

Rice says her gym is specifically designed to make parents comfortable in the midst of those risks. 

"They're never out of view, so you can keep an eye on them," she said.

At Rice's gym, there's a viewing deck where parents can see everything.

That's the kind of transparency Rice says parents should look for in a gym where their kids practice.

"Making sure they have a good rapport, and that you can see what's going on and that they don't have closed workouts or times where they're not allowed watch," she warned.

Rice says parents should feel comfortable enough to ask about the background check their gym uses for instructors.

She said kids should also feel comfortable enough to talk to their parents if anything* seems wrong.

Back outside the gym, Jah agrees that's the most important message for kids.

"If your kid was brave enough to talk about it then they need help," said Jah.

Rice says overall she is disappointed anything like this could happen, even though it was nowhere close to her gym.   

Albuquerque police have set up a tip line for parents to leave a message if they feel their child has been victimized by Glanton. The number is 505-659-6686.

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