Posts Tagged ‘Carmel’
A figure in one of the most notorious cases of school sports hazing in recent memory — and his family — were counseled by their attorneys to stay silent in the face of accusations of possible sexual crimes, intense media coverage and a backlash from some locals. After breaking their silence, the figure and his family proved their attorney provided wise counsel.
Scott Laskowski was one of four Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players (now all graduated) who faced criminal charges following two separate hazing incidents, one on a team bus on the way back from a game, and one in the team locker room. Laskowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the locker room incident, though he was suspended from the team and expelled from classes. Laskowski is the son of former Indiana University basketball player and announcer John Laskowski, making him, by accident of birth, the most prominent of the four accused. (Two others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the locker room incident, while other charges have been dropped, and two players — not including Laskowski — are still going through the court system over the bus incident.)
I’ll save you the slog through a six-page story on The Indianapolis Star’s website to get to the meat (on page six):
When the Laskowskis finally decided to speak, they lashed out at the media and the school and the accuser. They said their son is the real victim. The school took one student’s word against their son’s. His accuser — whose family plans a $2.25 million lawsuit against the school district — is in it for the money. And the media excess was motivated by greed.
My response: boo fucking hoo.
I’ll give the Laskowskis that having stalkers (including one person arrested for doing so) posting “a sex offender lives here” signs on their lawn and following them through the streets of Carmel was way over the top, and I don’t blame the family for moving 65 miles south to Bloomington to get away from it.
But, for Christ’s sake, when you have a victim who is reported to have had various objects shoved up his anus, you don’t go around proclaiming yourself or your golden boy as “the real victim.” There is no way to come out of that unscathed.
The story dwells on all the information that wasn’t released because of laws governing school privacy and grand-jury testimony. (It’s nice to see that the Laskowskis and those sympathetic with the victim can agree on one thing — that the school totally mishandled the situation.) But it doesn’t shed a lot of light on what Laskowski did or saw.
His guilty plea came for, as he put it, holding the ankles of a victim attacked in the locker room, and he denies doing anything on the bus. OK, we’ll take him at his word. So what did Laskowski see on the infamous bus ride? Did he see something happen? Are the others guilty? Is the victim making this up? In six pages, either Scott Laskowski wasn’t asked, or the interview was conditioned on the reporter not asking. Or, given the Laskowski family’s self-absorption, at least as it came across in the story, nobody knows or cares.
Here is an example on what gets built, and what doesn’t, in our not-officially-in-a-recession economy.
In the fast-growing Indianapolis suburb of Westfield, Ind., there was a proposed $1 billion, 1,400-acre project that was going to include mostly new housing and stores, but would also have 150 acres set aside for youth sports fields, a new Y, and a minor-league baseball stadium. Because of the lousy real estate market, the housing-and-stores part of the development has been cut by two-thirds.
Meanwhile, the athletics portion of the project has broken off, and its size has doubled — to 300 acres, or as the Indianapolis Business Journal points out, the size of the Kings Island amusement park.
I’ve written about it here before (and before that), and I’ll write about it again, because cities keep doing it: using youth sports as an economic development tool. And why not? At most, your huge complex can host scads of tournaments, which means scads of out-of-town teams, which means scads of parents and kids spending money at your hotels and restaurants. At worst, if the out-of-towners don’t show up, you can justify the cost of the project (and Westfield’s was estimated, when it was half the current size, at around $60 million) by pointing out that, unlike building a new NFL stadium, the community gets to use it.
Even in the throes of the recession, parents in unemployment-scarred towns such as Elkhart, Ind., ponied up to put their kids in sports. As one parent told me in 2009, he will cut any other expense, because “if you save $5, it’s $5 you can spend on your child.” With such a loyal spending base to work with, it’s no wonder even little towns like Edwardsburg, Mich. (population 1,200), have huge sports complexes in the planning or construction stages.
After all, you don’t want to have your hometown newspaper write about all the tournaments (and money) you lost because you didn’t keep up with the Basketball Joneses. (Often, the local coverage of proposed complexes sounds a lot like the fawning articles that beat the drums for taxpayer-funded pro stadiums. Sample headline: “New sports complex offers cities financial home run.”) Again, so what if the promised multimillion-dollar impact from youth tournaments doesn’t happen? At least your kids have a nice place to play, right?
Westfield, population 27,000, is much more ambitious than most cities building youth sports complexes. Instead of just saying, we’re building a complex, Westfield and its mayor, Andy Cook (no relation to your humble blogger) have declared they are building “The Family Sports Capital of America.”
Why so grandiose? Westfield, located in Indiana’s Hamilton County, one of the fastest-growing in the nation, is trying to grab more of the executives who have been more apt to settle in other suburbs, particularly Carmel, located immediately to Westfield’s south. Carmel (hometown of your humble blogger) itself has stood out nationally because of its grand schemes, such as its embrace of roundabouts, its snagging of Michael Feinstein and his Great American Songbook, and its getting Kendra Wilkinson to film her reality show there. A few years back, the U.S. Census Bureau renamed the Indianapolis metropolitan area the Indianapolis-Carmel metro. One of Westfield’s few claims to fame was being the home of a serial killer.
Carmel has always been bigger, richer and more important than Westfield, and damnit, if the town was going to be known for being more than Carmel’s leftovers, it needed to do something grand. Hence, “The Family Sports Capital of America.” (Giving yourself a grandiose nickname is a tradition among Hoosiers. See Michael Jackson, “King of Pop.”)
With ground yet to be broken, we’re a long way from finding out whether Westfield can pop a big civic boner in the face of its rival, which I just realized is a highly inappropriate metaphor in a piece about a place kids play. But we are hardly a long way away from cities of any size determining that putting money into shiny, new youth sports complexes is maybe not such a good idea after all. As long as parents are willing to spend their last $5 on their kids and their sports, there is going to be a market for the facilities. The only question might be is if some other town is going to try to beat Westfield to the “Family Sports Capital of America” punch.
(Actually, Blaine, Minn., already did.)
A lot has happened in the Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball hazing case since I last posted about it, including my own self being interviewed by The Indianapolis Star about it in a quote that had the feel of, “Well, we talked to him, so we might as well use something from him.”
However, I’ve stayed away from the blow-by-blow detail of everything that’s happened since the four now-former players were indicted on misdemeanor charges related to abuse of their teammates, in part because I was getting a little tired of writing about it, a decision that came at great risk to my readership statistics, given Carmel-related articles make up four of my top 10-read posts.
However, Carmel Mayor James Brainard said something the other day that’s drawing me back in. From an interview with WRTV television in Indianapolis:
Carmel Mayor James Brainard said jealousy is fueling intrigue into charges against four former high school basketball players accused in assaults on younger teammates.
“I think it gets sometimes more attention because it’s Carmel,” Brainard [said]. “I think that the community is an affluent community, so sometimes I think … when something doesn’t go perfectly, or doesn’t go right, that it gets more attention than that same sort of thing might get somewhere else.” …
Brainard said it is time for the community to move on and focus on other things beside the case.”We’re building a new community here,” he said. “All sorts of good things are happening.”
Carmel, where I graduated from high school, where my mother still lives, has been transformed under Brainard from your standard-issue bedroom community into a model of suburban development, with an emphasis on arts, green development and other strategies to make the city of 70,000 feel like its own unique place, rather than a mere, wealthier extension of Indianapolis. Yes, all sorts of good things are happening.
However, by his comments on the Carmel case, Brainard gave evidence of why my late father often referred to him as “Mayor Brain-dead.” Even if the community’s affluence helped to drive the intensity of the coverage on the hazing case, the maya sayin’ y’all playa hatin’ is a ridiculous statement. Another major factor in driving the intensity of the coverage is the shock of four senior basketball players who, allegedly, took it upon themselves to ram various items up the rectums of freshmen, for no other apparent reason than they were freshmen.
I haven’t believed that the Carmel school system, the Carmel police, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office and the Illuminati have conspired to try to put a lid on the Carmel hazing case. However — same as I feel about whether David Stern bent an envelope to make sure the New York Knicks won the 1985 draft lottery so they could get Patrick Ewing — I don’t doubt that everyone involved WOULD like this case to go away. It’s a subtle difference. A conspiracy assumes that everyone knew what was going on, and tried to squash all word about it. In the case of Carmel authorities, I believe that they didn’t 100 percent of the time try to find out everything that happened. In some part, that might be because they couldn’t conceive of how awful it was, that “good” kids from their community would never be capable of doing such bad things.
As the Carmel case makes its way through the legal system, Mayor Brainard is best staying out of the discussion about it, and instead limit his public comments to subjects such as, say, roundabouts.
By the way, the fear of so many Carmel playa hatas is that because none of the four — Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge, Scott Laskowski and Oscar Faludon — were indicted on any sexual assault charges, any punishment won’t have their desired effect of a tar-and-feathering, public hanging or, at least, a permanent spot on the sex offender registry.
However, that’s not to say that even the charges of battery (the worst any of them face) aren’t going to have some long-term effect, no matter what happens in a courtroom.
The Indianapolis Star on June 10 quoted a spokesman from DePauw University, where Kitzinger is supposed to be playing basketball next season, that it’s possible he won’t be there when the fall begins. Kitzinger is trying to follow in the footsteps of his father Kirk, a Carmel attorney (not representing any of the players in this case) who played at DePauw from 1976 to 1980.
At DePauw, university spokesman Christopher Wells confirmed that a number of alumni have contacted the school to express concern about Kitzinger, who is slated to play on the school’s basketball team in the fall. University officials want to talk to Carmel school leaders and Kitzinger’s family, Wells said.
“Anytime we become aware of a situation that occurs after admission, we’re going to try to get as much information as possible,” Wells said. “We have an expectation that our students are going to end their high school career as it began.”
University officials have not indicated when a decision will be made.
Kitzinger and the three other seniors were expelled but received their diplomas through online classes offered by the high school. Wells said DePauw also could halt Kitzinger’s enrollment if it finds Web courses weren’t equal to in-class work.
You might have seen over the weekend that the New York Times put up a blurb about the growth of cell phone use by six-to-11-year-olds, a group that back in my day (insert old man voice) would still have been playing with pretend land lines. However, I see nothing disturbing at all in kids having cell phones, not with my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter having had them for about two years. I’m also guessing a lot of parents who are shuttling kids to multiple events, sports or otherwise, feel the same way.
“Oh-hoh! I’ll send Goofy to pick you up at the field, Billy!”
The Times, quoting a study released Jan. 4 by Mediamarket Research and Intelligence, said that in 2005 11.9 percent of six- to 11-year-olds had their own mobile phone. In 2009, that number was up to 20 percent. The most dramatic increase, according to the market research company, was 10- and 11-year-olds, whose phone ownership was up 80.5 percent.
These numbers might be disturbing if you believe cell phones cause brain tumors, or if you imagine your 6-year-old now having the power to send naked pictures of himself all over the virtual world. And, yeah, when I put it that way, even I’m starting to freak out a little bit. Let me check my kid’s phones, and I’ll be right back. …
(OK, nothing untoward there. Whew.)
Or maybe you think merely that a post-toddler or preteen is too young to have a phone.
The New York Times item on this survey, being a blurb, left out a key part of the 5,000-child survey: why they use their phone.
The overwhelmingly No. 1 reason why kids use their phones is to call their parents. Now, as a child — and I was a good kid (really, I was) — my worst nightmare was that my parents could have some sort of tracking device on me that would always reveal to them where I was at any given moment. But my experience with my own children is that both sides like the security of being able to get in touch, anytime. Certainly, a cell phone would have been helpful so I could go from one park to another without having to make a detour home first so I could ask my parents if I could go.
The survey said 88.1% of the kiddie cellphone wielders use the device to call their parents. This is where the phone as youth sports parent’s best friend comes in. There comes a time, when the number of kids you have and the schedules they keep outflank you ability to be everywhere at once, that the phone is a necessity for making sure that your child isn’t left stranded after practice or a game — or that you can talk to your child and the parents of whomever has offered to bring him or her home, preferably via a postgame ice-cream shop stop.
My 12-year-old’s phone certainly comes in handy for his frequent, hours-long in-line skating jaunts, so I can call him home, or he can call me in case there is a problem. I feel safer with him having the phone, though my concern for his safety does not extend to making him wear a helmet and pads.
Over the summer, when we were visiting my family in Carmel, Ind., my son bladed over to the nearby Monon Trail (a conversion from a rail line upon which a parent threatened to send up Hickory basketball coach Norman Dale after hidestrapping his ass to a pine rail), which runs south to downtown Indianapolis. I was running the trail myself, so I saw him as we entered at about 146th Street, and I saw him again as I ran south from the trail’s end at 161st Street in Westfield, with him heading north. His phone in hand, I let him keep going after I was done running.
About 90 minutes later, not having heard from my son, I figured I’d better call him to see if he was OK. “Yeah, I’m fine, Dad,” he said. “Where are you?” “I’m not exactly sure.” “What was the last street sign you saw?” “I think it was… 96th Street.” (96th Street is the border between Carmel and Indianapolis.) “96th Street? Where the heck are you going?” “I wanted to go all the way downtown and back.” “Uh, no.”
Hey, my 12-year-old son may be old enough to have a cell phone, but I wasn’t going to let him traverse by himself to downtown Indianapolis and back. I might let him skate with no pads and no helmet — and an iPod going full-blast — but I have my limits. (I did let him skate back, though.)
By the way, second in the survey was calling friends (68.1 percent) and emergency purposes (55.7 percent). Mediamarket says much of the rise in cell phone use has to do with more kid-friendly phone offerings.
Left totally unsupervised, with no cell phone pads and cell phone helmet, can mobile technology welcome your 6- to 11-year-old to a world of sexting, cyberbullying, tumor-iffic, airtime-charge-sucking ne’er-do-wells? Perhaps. When we got our kids phones, my wife and I gave long lectures about what they were to be used for — and not. We haven’t gotten our 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter their own phones yet, but they’re not moving about independently enough to need them.
Anyway, I think the results of the Mediamark survey show that children — and parents — want that electronic tether to make sure they’re never out of reach; what was once my nightmare, now a child’s and parent’s dream.
In Haddonfield, N.J., there are two lawsuits — both involving students suspended from extracurricular activities after being arrested for underage drinking — that seek to answer in the negative the musical question I’ve posed in the headline. However, there is a long tradition of that question being answered in the positive. Recent court decisions have affirmed that opinion, by saying plainly that while students have a right to stay in school, they have no special right to stay there afterward and participate in activities.
Contrary to how the new or unusual the concept of punishing student-athletes for nonschool conduct might seem, it’s been around for a long time, long enough that it was the rule when I was running cross country and track at Carmel (Ind.) High School back in the days when parachute pants were all the rage. In fact, it’s been around long enough that when I was editor of the high school’s newspaper, I identified the names of multiple basketball players suspended for a game after they were among 90 arrested at a party where underage drinking was taking place. (So there is a precedent to my revealing the names of Carmel’s current basketball players identified in a budding hazing scandal.)
However, apparently this concept is new to Haddonfield, N.J., where the school district adopted its “24/7″ policy in 2006 to take action against students who run into trouble outside of school events. The policy includes the Haddonfield police tipping off the district if any of their students get arrested, a fairly common practice in many areas.
According to the Philadephia Inquirer, 70 students, including those of Haddonfield Mayor and 24/7 policy promoter Tish Colombi, have gotten caught in its net. (Correction: Colombi’s children got busted for underage drinking while in high school, and she later promoted the 24/7 policy.) Local attorney Matthew Wolf is seeking class-action status on behalf of all of them in his lawsuits representing two 15-year-old student-athletes got smacked down by the 24/7 policy in two separate incidents. Wolf, in a story that aired March 6 on NPR’s Weekend Edition, called 24/7 “simply a vigilante system of justice established by a school board in violation of the Constitution of the United States.”
Wolf says the off-campus policy violates the Constitution by duplicating the punishment and meting it out before the kids have gone to court. Also, he says drinking at a party on Saturday night has nothing to do with school safety.
“If a student has stabbed another student outside of school, or stabbed anyone outside the school, we don’t contend that the school doesn’t have the right to exercise its authority over students who commit serious offenses,” says Wolf.
Actually, courts so far have said the opposite — that it would be tougher to expel a student who stabbed someone outside of school than it would be to boot someone off the volleyball team for getting busted for even the most minor of offenses.
An Ohio state appeals court case is hardly legal precedent, but it’s the closest we might come (other than a judge denying one of Wolf’s clients a temporary restraining order) until a case like Mather v. Loveland City School District Board of Education makes its way to the Supreme Court.
The plaintiff was Charlie Mather, a student at Loveland High, located in a suburb of Cincinnati. One night in summer 2008, police pulled over a car in which he was riding, and police noticed an open container of alcohol between his legs. Mather was arrested. Later, a Loveland resource officer who also is a city cop told the school about Mather’s arrest. The school, under its policy, suspended Mather for 40 percent of the football season. Mather’s mother sued the school district, and got a local court to give a temporary injunction for him to play football — but he still faced sitting out 40 percent of lacrosse season in the spring.
With that in mind, the case (relatively quickly) made it to a state appeals court. On March 13, 2009, in a unanimous decision, the three judges said the lower court was all kinds of wrong in even giving Mather the time of day.
The first problem, the judges noted, was that the Ohio legislature never granted students a right to appeal suspension from extracurricular activities, even though they did have the right to appeal suspension or expulsion from curricular activities (which is why I noted Wolf had it backward about who had the harder time getting back into school). As a matter of fact, the Ohio legislature appeared to make it clear there would be no legal right of appeal on the extracurricular end. In 1996 it passed a law allowing school boards to adopt policies for prohibiting students from participating in extracurricular activities. In 1999, it struck out the word “extracurricular” when it amended statute on students’ rights to appeal suspension or expulsion from school.
It is significant that the legislature both created a separate statute to address policies for prohibiting students from extracurricular activities and deleted “extracurricular” from the statute concerning the right to appeal a school board’s decision. It is clear to us that the legislature intended to create a right of appeal to a common pleas court only for curricular activities. Extracurricular activities are governed solely by R.C. 3313.664, which provides no right to appeal a school board’s decision. Perhaps the legislature reasoned that some issues have to be left to the good faith of school officials, rather than to have every incident such as this one dragged into court.
That court also noted a 1980 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court — one step short of the Supreme Court — in a case called Glenn v. Harper. That court upheld the right of a school district to kick a student off the cheerleading squad, without a hearing or a right of appeal. The Sixth Circuit noted, and the Ohio state appeals court followed, that there is no Constitutional right to participate in extracurricular school activities.
So that’s what a court says, but is that right? I’ll sound like a grumpy old man, but, yes, it is. If a college team can suspend a player for off-campus problems, there’s no reason a high school or middle cannot, as well. As schools note, participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege. Generally, students and their parents have to sign an agreement (as Mather and his father did) adhering to a code of conduct, and if the student doesn’t, well, see you in math class, but not on the football field.
However, if Wolf and his like want to make some progress on giving young athletes more wiggle room in the code of conduct, they might concentrate on what’s in the code itself, and how it is applied. There is a case pending in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, Ind., in which two female athletes were suspended from teams for salacious MySpace pictures (often known as the “Penis Pop case”). In that case, the issue is whether photos taken and posted for the benefit of a select group of people (they couldn’t be seen by people outside the girls’ networks) counts as any sort of moral public turpitude worthy of getting suspended, and especially worthy of having to grovel in front of all-male panels gawking at your licking a phallus lollipop in order to get back on the team.
I’ve already gone on record as saying I don’t think this is actionable like an athlete getting busted for something illegal. At least in the latter case, you have a public record to go on, rather than trying to make some judgment call. But we’ll see what the court has to say. For now, those athletes in Haddonfield shouldn’t hold their breaths that Matthew Wolf will succeed in his goal of getting their suspensions off their permanent records, something extremely important in the well-to-do community. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A number of Haddonfield parents were contacted for this story, and all declined to speak on the record. They expressed concern that their comments would affect their children, both in their day-to-day existence in high school and when they applied to college in the months or years ahead.
Apropos of nothing, Bill Cosby talking about drinking, when he was more funny than hectoring.
The other day I noted that at Carmel (Ind.) High School, center of criminal investigations into alleged violent and sexual crimes into two separate hazing incidents involving the boys basketball team, had a similar situation pop up in 1998: three senior swimmers accused of harassing, beating and sexually assaulting a freshman teammate in what may or may not have been a case of hazing. I also noted that I couldn’t find any record of what happened to the alleged victim’s lawsuit against the school district and the swimmers.
WISH-TV in Indianapolis got a hold of the court documents and found the boy’s attorney. (Thanks to the intrepid Your Kid’s Not Going Pro reader who tipped me.) Tonight (March 5) the station aired a report that while a bit over the top in linking the swimming incident to the basketball incident — hey, it was 12 years ago, and none of the administrators overseeing (or not) things then are not the ones overseeing things (or not) now — do provide some disturbing parallels into how these incidents happen, and get so out of control. Most disturbing, perhaps, to those who want to see Carmel’s basketball players, coaches and school administrators hanging in the courtyard at dawn is how the 1998 case ended up being resolved.
Actually, the most direct parallel is with the three seniors being investigated for assaulting two freshman teammates Jan. 22 on a bus trip back from a game in Terre Haute, a 100-mile trip. Like in that case, the victim apparently never stepped forward for whatever reason (in the swimmer’s case, fear that no one would believe three well-liked teammates would do such a thing), and the apparent assaults came to light only when the victim was injured badly enough to go to the hospital, which reported the injuries to the state’s Child Protective Services division.
In each case, coaches and administrators initially appeared to either not believe the victim or failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. According to WISH-TV, the swimming coach told the freshman, when he complained, to tough it out, that a little “horseplay” was part of being a freshman. In the basketball case, Carmel principal John Williams went on television — WISH-TV, to be exact — to note that, even after a police report on the alleged assault was released, “I’m still pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what happened on that bus.” Depending on how the case develops, that sentence could be his career epitaph. (After all, the three seniors were suspended from school and the team for whatever happened on that bus.)
However, Williams might be OK in the end. In the swimming case, then-coach Tony Young was charged with failing to report a crime — but those charges eventually were dismissed. The swimmers never faced criminal charges. The lawsuit against the school and the swimmers, filed in 2002, was settled for an undisclosed amount soon before trial was scheduled to begin, according to WISH-TV.
One incident in 1998 and another in 2010 do not a pattern of violent hazing behavior make. However, each case shows a common pattern in any school where such an incident emerges: victims are afraid to speak out, coaches don’t want to hear it, and administrators are either left in the dark, intentionally or by their own desire to not hear anything they will have to recite later in a deposition.
That’s why I’m calling for everyone across these Internets who are screaming cover-up to can it. Hazing cases are notoriously difficult to investigate, because you have a lot of potential witnesses, and you have a lot of people who don’t want to say what they’ve seen. (A reason cited as to why the prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected not to file criminal charges in a hazing case involving a high school cross country team.)
No doubt, the authorities in Carmel don’t want a bruise on the Indianapolis suburb’s well-polished image as a high-class, desirable place to live. But if no charges end up being filed, if no coach or administrator loses his or her job, it will be a testament to police and administrative incompetence and/or witnesses refusing to say exactly what they know.
On the other hand, those across these Internets, including Carmel’s own city attorney, who are screaming about how the mean ol’ media is attacking the Bestest City in the Universe and harassing poor, innocent high school kids also need to can it. Without the media attention, it’s doubtful there would be a police investigation in the first place. Maybe that’s what those screamers wanted. If there’s any “cover up,” it’s going to come from community pressure to get basketball players and other witnesses not to talk, not an orchestrated campaign by the police.
(Oh, by the way, Carmel lost at home tonight in its own sectional to neighboring Indianapolis ‘burb Westfield, so everybody’s season is over, not just that of the four seniors.)