Posts Tagged ‘Ohio’
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.
Todd Fox is no longer wrestling coach at Willard High School in Ohio because three of his team members pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for hazing a freshman teammate, a polite way of describing an incident in which that wrestler’s pants were pulled down, his testicles fondled, his rectum the recipient of a finger, and all of it photographed. Even though he resigned last year, Fox remains a teacher, and he remains convinced that, gosh darn it, no one ever told him what was really going on, and gosh darn it, he had better sue the parents of the victim because they’re being assholes about it.
If Fox’s Nov. 30, 2009, lawsuit against the parents for allegedly harassing him and defaming him so he can’t get another coaching job wasn’t enough, Fox decided recently to send a prepared statement to the Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector to let the world know: he’s a victim of bullying.
“It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but I could not sit back and allow a continued attack on my character. I put my heart in soul into the students and community of Willard. I have put students, athletes and the school before my own family many times. I do not deserve to be bullied. I just want to do what I do best and that is trying to make a positive difference in the lives of students and student-athletes.”
Later in the story, the Reflector quoted Fox’s attorney saying that the coach had a “rift” with the freshman wrestler’s father, who had served as a volunteer coach at Willard before apparently putting, in Fox’s view, his figurative finger up the coach’s figurative rectum.
It may well be that the freshman wrestler’s father is a jerk. But the unfortunate facts for Fox is that a) he was coach when such a heinous “hazing” activity occurred, and b) no matter if the father was Wrestling Hitler, his son did not deserve what happened to him. Also, exactly why is Fox sending this email before his trial even begins? Don’t most lawyers advise you not to do stuff like that?
By the way, Fox isn’t the only ex-Willard athletic official involved in litigation. Former athletic director Michael Lillo, now the school district’s transportation, building and grounds director, is accused in a lawsuit of “baiting a certain black basketball player from Fostoria High School” after a Jan. 30, 2009, Willard-Fostoria game, and making abusive comments toward Fostoria players during it. Lillo vociferously denied the charges in an interview with the Reflector. The lawsuit filed by Fostoria coach Rick Renz is not against Lillo, but against Willard police and city for allegedly injuring him while restraining him and forcing him to the gym floor. Must have been one hell of a game.
Dave Daubenmire is the most successful high school football coach in America at running his offense out of the wingnut formation.
Since 1999, when he got canned from London (Ohio) High School following a lawsuit over his bringing his extreme religion into the classroom and the locker room, Daubenmire has become a right-wing media star, with multiple appearances in his ever-present cross cap on such standard who-loves-America-the-most shows such as Hannity.
Daubenmire, who as football coach at Fairfield Christian Academy in Lancaster, Ohio, can preach to the converted all he wants without the mean ol’ ACLU getting in the way, wants to fight the evil godless government from within, having filed to run as a Republican for the House of Representatives seat held by Democrat Zack Space, one of Daubenmire’s many mortal enemies.
Daubenmire said the time is right for a conservative grass-roots campaign to succeed, especially in a district dominated by Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the 2008 election.
“I could run as an independent, but I don’t want to do that,” Daubenmire said [Jan. 28] on his radio show on WLRY, in Rushville. “I’m convinced whoever wins the Republican primary will be the next elected representative in the 18th District.
“(Space) is not even a Blue Dog. We have the most traitorous Democrat, Zack Space, in that position.”
Daubenmire used his radio show to blast the president and the policies of the Democrat-controlled Congress.
“I don’t think we understand the depth of the evil that is involved in the American government,” Daubenmire said.
“We watch the president of the United States. If he is under demonic control, we watch him on TV and we are hypnotized and drawn to him and how articulate he is. We say he’d never do that or that would never happen. What are the limits of the depths of evil of the evil one? How evil could his minions be?”
The … coach said on the radio show he was still undecided about entering the race, saying he would be assaulted by news media and portrayed as an idiot.
“The question I’m struggling with, I guess, I don’t know, is who better than me to grab the sword of the spirit and go into the devil’s lair and swing that sword,” Daubenmire said.
Here is video of Daubenmire swinging his sword in a sit-in outside Space’s home office in Dover, Ohio. He vowed to sit there until Space had a town hall meeting on health system reform, specifically one involving Daubenmire personally. (Space did have meetings, though none involving the coach.)
If Daubenmire sounds like he’s moved beyond Christianity into delusion, it’s because he has. In his personal bio, Daubenmire notes he started his Pass the Salt ministry after a great victory over the American Civil Liberties Union. It sued the London City Schools on behalf of parents complaining that Daubenmire required players to participate in team prayer, and preached during practice and during class. The case was settled the day before it was supposed to go to court in 1999, and Daubenmire was fired. Here is how Daubenmire recalls the ending:
After a two year battle for his 1st amendment rights and a determination to not back down, the ACLU relented and offered coach an out of court settlement. God honored his stand and the ACLU backed off. Coach’s courageous stand, an inspiration to Americans everywhere, demonstrated that the ACLU can be defeated.
And here is the ACLU’s recollection, in a release whose title begins ACLU Declares Victory:
The settlement, which ACLU attorneys have been quietly negotiating with lawyers for the district and the coaches since early last month, prohibits future acts of religious indoctrination and establishes a system for reporting violations of the agreement to the United States District Court in Columbus [also, for two years any violations had to be reported to the ACLU]. …
[T]he London School Board voted unanimously to accept the terms offered by the ACLU.
Daubenmire also never mentioned that he sued the complaining parents for defamation — and lost.
Of course, Daubenmire has a long history of using the ACLU’s scorn and other people’s disapproval as the fuel for his holy fire, and I don’t mean the one he set when he publicly burned a copy of the Koran. Like his good buddy Alan Keyes, Daubenmire uses his runs for office (he also ran unsucessfully for the Ohio State Board of Education in 2004) to bring more attention to his own activities, and get himself more time on Fox News.
In fact, Daubenmire, as he hinted above, is running as a Republican out of expediency, not out of love for the party. He probably is insulted that the Chillcothe Gazette referred to him as a conservative, given one of his jeremiads: “Let Conservatism Die.”
Meanwhile, the modern “conservative” movement awakened by Barry Goldwater, carried up the mountain by Ronald Reagan, preached over the airwaves by Limbaugh and Hannity [editor's note: great way to guarantee future apperances on their programs], and destroyed by GW Bush and the Republican Party is still being called “conservatism” by those on both the winning and the losing side.
… [C]onservatives went “compassionate” (which really meant compromised) and sold Christianity down the river; Only Christians aren’t smart enough to realize it. They still vote the way “conservatives” Hannity and Limbaugh tell them to, because, after all, they are “conservatives” too. Christianity and conservativism are not the same thing.
… You wouldn’t have to look very far into the “conservative” Republican Party to find the fornicators, covetous, idolators, railers, drunkards, or extortioners. Just look at the guest list at a Republican fundraiser. Those “conservatives” are the one’s [sic] that our Christian leadership are breaking bread with inside the big Republican tent. Is it any wonder they have lost? Has the Republican Party compromised their position to advance the standards of Jesus or has the Christian leadership compromised on the standards of our Savior to advance Republican candidates? … Let conservatism die.
I’m not sure the coach’s offensive activities will get him elected, but they certainly will score points with a certain amount of the electorate — the ones who enjoy watching their politics run out of the wingnut formation.
It seems likely that Joe Charboneau’s career as director of baseball for the North Ridgeville (Ohio) parks and recreation department might be as short and mercurial as his career with the Cleveland Indians, thanks to his alleged involvement in a recent bar fight. No word on whether it started because he tried to open a beer bottle with another guy’s eye socket.
… Mayor David Gillock said the city is waiting for a police report about the fight before deciding whether Charboneau will be rehired to manage the city’s baseball and softball programs.
Charboneau was contracted to run the programs in 2008 and 2009. …
Charboneau could not be reached for comment on the investigation.
Gillock confirmed that Charboneau, 53, of North Ridgeville, was injured in a fight at Poor Richard’s, formerly known as Century Tavern, on Ridge Road. He was … treated for his injuries and released. The nature of his injuries could not be confirmed.
Police Capt. Allan Dent declined to give details of the fight, or even to identify Charboneau as one of the participants. He said the matter is under investigation.
Charboneau was the 1980 American League Rookie of the Year, and a media sensation because of his oddball personality, which included the ability to pop open a beer bottle with his left eye socket, then drink it through a straw stuck up his nose. Hurt by back problems, Charboneau played only 70 games in the majors over 1981 and 1982 before his career ended.
Somewhere, Chief Wahoo is again shedding a single tear looking over the degradation of Joe Charboneau.
I’m not sure why we call sports hazing, hazing, and not something more descriptive. Like, “Just because I’m sticking this pine cone up your ass doesn’t mean I’m some kinda fuckin’ homo.”
What stuns me about societal acceptance of hazing, particularly in youth sports — well, a lot stuns me, but I’ll stick to this one thing — is how a community can rally around athletes and coaches who participate and condone in homoerotic fantasies and exercises, when if the athletes were otherwise engaged in consensual gay activity, they would have a societal pine cone shoved up their asses.
Sports hazing is in the news again as ex-Willard High (Ohio) wrestling coach Todd Fox sued the parents of a wrestler who alleged he was bullied. Fox says the parents are harassing and defaming him, thus depriving him of coaching opportunities elsewhere. Fox is still employed as a teacher, but he resigned in March 2009 after 10 years as Willard’s wrestling coach after the hazing allegations emerged.
The Mansfield News-Journal, the latest to report Fox’s lawsuit, filed in November, was too discreet to describe the allegations. But the Sandusky Register was less circumspect in October in a story about the sentencing of two of the three wrestlers who plead guilty to disorderly conduct in relation to the hazing:
“I am sorry I am involved in the mess that’s still going on,” the junior said. “I lost a great friend and a wrestling partner. I want you to know I did not realize you were being hurt or felt the way you did.”
The junior said in January he held the freshman down on school property while another teammate grabbed the boy’s testicles through his shorts and then pushed his fingers through the back fabric of his shorts into the boy’s rectum.
He then pulled the freshman’s shorts down when he stood up.
The junior said he would not have pinned the freshman down if he knew such depraved acts were to come.
Defense attorney Peter McGory said the incident was “life-altering,” and his client learned an important lesson about horseplay.
McGory said his client was prepared to make amends, but he urged the court not to forbid him from wrestling. McGory said the junior plans to attend college on a sports scholarships.
Judge Meyer denied the request. …
Weeks before the freshman wrestler was held down and mistreated, the senior [the second defendant] sat naked on the boy’s chest in the locker room area and put his genitals near the boy’s face.
As he did this, another teammate snapped a photograph.
Not long after pleading guilty in this incident, the senior was reprimanded by officials for his antics at football camp, which included sticking a phone receiver in a pair of Speedo underwear he was wearing.
The attorney for the senior also urged the court not to suspend his client from sports.
But unlike in the junior’s case, the attorney’s arguments convinced the judge.
Given the descriptions, what comes to mind is not disorderly conduct. It’s rape, rape done by horny high school boys too filled with self-hate, a self-hate that grew from a lifetime of coaches, parents and community definitions of he-manliness, for their homosexual urges to act out in remotely healthy way. And I know that’s an insult to self-hating gays who don’t act out by forcibly sticking their fingers up men’s rectums.
The judge’s sentence of community service, mental health evaluations and letters of apology seems laughably small given the crime, but no prosecutor is going to try a hazing case as rape. The community outcry is already great just for holding athletes just a little bit accountable. When a star wrestler in Colorado last year was indicted on hazing-related charges, most of the comments to the local newspaper about the case were in support of the wrestler.
At least the judge (who accepted a guilty plea deal that included dropping assault charges) did more than the coach, who just made his wrestlers run laps. Fox claims the victimized wrestler didn’t tell him enough, and that it’s unfair his family would badmouth him. From the Mansfield newspaper:
[Attorney David] Firestine said Fox’s response to the incident was based on information provided by the victimized wrestler. He said Fox would have acted differently if presented with more details.
“Whether it was horseplay or hazing is still to be known,” Firestine said. “(Fox) had no opportunity to deal with the facts as presented to everyone else.”
Horseplay or hazing, still to be known? After three of wrestlers were sentenced? Unless horses play by grabbing each other’s balls and/or sticking hooves up rectums, it seems pretty clear at this point it was hazing. If Fox thinks he’s permanently scarred by what happened, at least he’s not reminded every time he, say, wipes.
There are a lot of hazing experts who have done a great job trying to get people to take the issue seriously, but I’m really wondering, at least among men, whether the issue is desire to exert power over others, or whether the issue really is a bunch of closest queens who can’t bring themselves to do anything they feel doesn’t befit a manly king.
Maybe in the course of their mental health assessment, these wrestlers might confront their greatest fear: that just because you’re sticking your fingers up another guy’s rectum does, in fact, mean you’re some kinda fuckin’ homo.
You here all this talk about “green shoots” in the desolate landscape that is our economy. So perhaps the greenest shoots are sprouting in Grove City, Ohio, America’s poster child for the desolate landscape that is the school sports economy.
Voters in the South-Western City Schools district, Ohio’s sixth-largest, on Nov. 3 passed — barely — a tax levy that the system said was necessary to keep extracurricular activities, including sports. Barely, as in 50.53 percent for to 49.47 percent against. But that was better than the 50.8-49.2 loss suffered Aug. 4, and previous votes in the 56-44 range. The turnout was 38,000 votes on Nov. 3 — about 6,000 more than for the Aug. 4 tax referendum.
After that Aug. 4 vote, the school board got South-Western, located in southwestern portion of the city of Columbus and nearby suburbs, unwanted national attention by canceling all extracurricular activites. The day after the Nov. 3 election, the school board, looking at $18 million they didn’t have previously, unanimously approved the contracts for 43 basketball, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics coaching positions, the day after the election, according to ThisWeek Community Newspapers in Columbus. The Ohio State High School Athletic Association is even waiving rules to allow athletes who transferred to other schools to come back without penalty. (The OSHAA has done this for other school districts that have dropped, then reinstated sports.)
I think it’s safe to say that after articles in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and other national press depicting the anti-tax voters of South-Western as the Grinch Who Stole Sports and the despondent athletes as Cindy Lou-Whos who weren’t going to see the good side of having no roast beast, a lot of voters were shamed into approving the levy, which adds $227 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property value. (The amount of the levy requested was also slightly smaller than August’s request.)
Also, there probably were voters who, with the housing market bad enough, did not want to someday not be able to sell their house because South-Western had gotten a reputation as a place that hates children and hates schools.
My late father was as anti-tax as they come, but he (often grudingly) voted for every tax levy that was offered for schools, in part because his own children would benefit, but mainly because he knew that his property values were tied to the value of the school system. He might not have liked paying more taxes, but in his cost-benefit analysis he figured that was less than the property value hit he would take for a “no” vote.
It’s not a total happy ending for South-Western’s involved children. The school reinstated sports, but it also installed a pay-to-play system. According to ThisWeek, “[h]igh school athletics will cost $150 per participant per sport. Marching band will cost $100. Middle school athletics will cost $75 and clubs $20.”
There is a pattern to how little misunderstandings involving youth sports turn into the raging contretemps that end up in blogs such as this.
First a child and parent are blithely going along in the course of a season. Then a team representative announces, clumsily, a sudden change in the arrangement that should have been handled earlier. Then the parent and/or child goes batshit crazy whether or not the team digs in its heels. And then smart-alecks like me write it up.
That’s the pattern playing out in Berlin Heights, Ohio. Eighth-grader Keegan O’Brien started football place at Berlin-Milan Middle School. The school comes back and says, oh by the way, Keegan shouldn’t be on the team because his poor seventh-grade marks made him ineligible. His mother, Amy Ortner, responds by demanding a refund from the school for the $70 she spent on a physical and football shoes, which she said was a lot for someone out of work such as herself. Then, in the coup de crazy, she put a marquee in her front yard that reads “Berlin Football– Shame Shame– We Dont Play Those Kind of Games.” (I presume the letters she got for the sign didn’t come with apostrophes.)
Joe South feels you, Amy.
According to the Sandusky Register, this sign has been up for about a month, and it doesn’t appear to be coming down any time soon — not with a school levy vote coming up in November.
For about a month, a marquee in Amy Ortner’s front yard has displayed messages critical of the football program. It has drawn the attention of people traveling this busy stretch of highway and an offer of money to take it down, which Ortner characterized as a bribe.
Mark Suhanic, who made the offer, said he was just trying to give Ortner what she wanted and acting not as a school board member but on behalf of a friend. [The friend is the operator of a nearby orchard who thought her sign was bad for his business.]
“I just wanted it to go away. I guess you could look at it as a bribe, paying her off, but she was very adamant that she wanted the money,” Suhanic said. “She wanted the money, and there was a guy willing to pay the money.”
She didn’t take the money.
…Ortner said Suhanic told her he was concerned her sign — which she borrowed from a friend — made the schools look bad in advance of a levy vote next month.
“I’m mad that the only reason they’re worried is because of the levy,” she said. “They’re not worried about the justice of taking a kid off of a team after he’s been part of it for two months.”
Suhanic said rules are rules, and the levy isn’t the only reason he wanted the sign taken down.
“Any bad publicity isn’t good any time. It happens we do have a levy going on,” he said, “but most people don’t understand what this has been about, and she hasn’t been forthcoming in explaining to people.”
It appears the school screwed up in two ways. The first was not following Ohio High School Athletic Association rules about informing players and parents about the ineligibility rules. According to the OHSAA guidelines:
3-1-4 Within two weeks of the beginning of each sports season, the principal, through his/her athletic
administrator, coaches and such other personnel as deemed advisable by said principal,
shall conduct a mandatory, preseason program with all student-athletes who wish to
participate in the upcoming sports seasons, their parents and booster club officers. The
meeting shall consist of (a) a review of the student-eligibility bulletin and key essential eligibility
requirements; (b) a review of the school’s Athletic Code of Conduct; and (c) a
sportsmanship, ethics and integrity component.
The second mistake was the administration’s, ham-handed handling once it realized it had made an oopsie. Maybe the school could have refunded the money. Or it could have come up with a way to let Keegan play while not sacrificing the school’s academic integrity. For example, it could have set up an arrangement that might have given Keegan a clean slate for this year, but giving strict guidelines about the minimum grade-point average he would need to keep his place on the team.
Of course, with the month-long sign tirade she has under way, Amy Ortner doesn’t sound like the most reasonable parent in the world to deal with. Yes, she did get wronged by the school. But you can’t help but think if she put this much effort toward in school in figuring out how to raise her son’s grades, he might be far better off. And whether he would be allowed to play football wouldn’t even be an issue.
But then I wouldn’t have anything to write about, would I?
An Ohio judge, channeling your parents, punishes a criminal athlete not by grounding him, er, putting him in jail, but by taking away his favorite toy, er, activity. From Cincinnati.com:
Applause turned to gasps in a Butler County courtroom Thursday as a judge announced an unusual punishment for a Middletown track and football star: Dwayne “Deejay” Hunter is forbidden from playing organized sports during his five-year probation for a felonious assault conviction.
“We’re going to see who Dwayne Hunter the person is, not who Dwayne Hunter the star athlete is,” declared Judge Andrew Nastoff, as he said Hunter still has a six-year prison sentence that would be imposed if he violates any conditions of his probation. …
Then he began outlining all the conditions of probation: no sports, not even intramurals; a $500 fine; 500 hours of community service, which can include his helping youngsters in Special Olympics, pee-wee football or other sports; plus 180 days in the Butler County Jail. With credit for time served, he will be released just before Thanksgiving.
Within 30 days of his release, Deejay Hunter must either obtain full-time employment or enroll in full-time schooling, Nastoff ordered, and also must attend counseling to address “personality and relationship issues” outlined in a mental-health evaluator’s report.
…Hunter, who pleaded guilty as charged in July, could have received up to eight years in prison for shooting a BB gun from a vehicle on a Middletown street in January, striking a 15-year-old boy in the face; one of the BB’s struck the victim’s eyelid.
In terms of giving athletes special treatment, Judge Nastoff, in the scheme of Ohio judges, is a whole lot better than the doofus who in 2006 let two high school football players start their sentence after the season was over after they were convicted of nearly killing somebody in a prank. But I still can’t decide whether Nastoff is brilliant or a pompous ass.
Hunter isn’t just some guy who likes sports. He’s a star football player and sprinter who had scholarship offers coming from big-time programs such as Tennessee.
He also isn’t just some guy who did one bad thing. He was arrested in May on charges of assaulting his ex-girlfriend — the same one he beat up last year, a crime that got him a restraining order (filed by the girl’s family) and a conviction in juvenile court. In June he was arrested for the fifth time IN A YEAR on charges of violating that order when the girl’s family spotted her at his house.
The question is, will Hunter be better off without sports? Hunter, who is 19 and would have otherwise been playing college football if not for his troubles, has essentially been barred from pursuing a sports career. Is that right? After all, you don’t see judges telling young, promising, criminal plumbers that they have to put down the pipe wrench as a punishment. Perhaps there is a way of getting Hunter on the right path while letting him pursue what he loves (sports, not getting arrested).
On the other hand, I wonder if the judge, in the back of his mind, thought people were letting Hunter off the hook for too long because of his athletic prowess, and by taking away sports, figures that’s the only shot Hunter has to focus on his problems and turn his life around.
Will it work? It’s tough to say — Hunter still might end up in jail on the charges relating to the beating and the restraining order violation, a sentence that could make Nastoff’s creative sentencing moot. But Nastoff certainly sent a message: he might be giving special treatment to an athlete in his courtroom, but that special treatment is making sure he’s no longer an athlete, and can never get special treatment again.
In 1977, I stood resplendent in my blue patterned, monogrammed leisure suit (made by my grandmother) in the front of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Owosso, Mich., along with my fellow First Communion celebrants. The photographer asked us communicants whether we wanted a picture to be passed out to our families, or for the newspaper. We bellowed: “THE NEWSPAPER!”
After all, having a picture in your parents’ hands was all well and good. But being in the newspaper was validation, immortality, even if was only the Owosso Argus-Press. There we were, on page 2, to be cut out and put into scrapbooks. Who cared if our faces all were so small you couldn’t tell one kid from another? (Or one monogrammed leisure suit from another?)
I thought of this after seeing another note from a newspaper encouraging its readers to submit photos, particularly of youth sports, to be published or posted. In this case, it’s the Zanesville Times-Recorder in Zanesville, Ohio, known for being one of Forbes’ most vulnerable local economies, a stop on the Devil’s Highway, and home to the Institute for White Studies. The Times-Recorder posted its note Sunday asking readers to submit photos to be used for galleries of prom and youth spring sports.
As newspapers circle the financial drain, one of their Hail Marys (other than mixing metaphors) is to ask for reader-submitted content, which is free and an easy driver of visits to the paper’s web site, or sales of newspapers to the people whose friends and relatives are featured. It’s a test of how strong the brand name of a newspaper can be. You don’t need a local paper to get your kids’ volleyball photos online. You can start a blog, or a Flickr account. (And then have some smart-aleck blogger steal your kid’s photo off of Flickr because it’s not copyrighted material.)
Like this, for example.
But as anyone who works a newspaper sports desk can tell you, there are sports parents who are incessant about why the local paper isn’t giving full blanket coverage to their kid’s team or sport, and their kid. “You only cover us when we [insert very bad thing here]” is a sportswriters’ cliche for the grief they get from parents.
Why do parents or fans bother? Because having someone ELSE take or post your pictures is validation, immortality. Especially as there are a million places online to disseminate your sports photos and information, getting a call from someone else who wants to do so is much more meaningful. (Plus, if it’s the local newspaper, you can be pretty sure it’s not a pedophile heavily breathing for your prom or swimming photos.)
Newspapers such as the Zanesville Time-Recorder are counting on their established brand name and ability to grant validation, immortality, to get scads of photos, but more importantly to remind readers that if they want to be remembered, posting a photo to a Facebook page isn’t enough. (Oh, and maybe the sports staff can tell angry parents that there is a vehicle available to attract the attention of the college recruiters they believe search for talent only in local sports sections.)
An example that has nothing to do with youth sports: The Redwood City, Calif., Flickr Group is located in the center of Silicon Valley. And yet the members were besides themselves with excitement in 2006 when the local paper wrote a story about them.
Of course, this isn’t the paper sending a photographer out to shoot your kid’s fourth-grade basketball game, so it’s not like the barrier for entry is that high.
Still, even small children who never see a newspaper in the home, as well as their parents, families and friends, can get excited over getting a picture “in the paper.” Or should I say, in “THE NEWSPAPER!”