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Parents told: Go to anti-drug meeting, or your kids don’t play school sports

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Swampscott, Mass., is an affluent community of 15,000 in Boston’s North Shore suburbs. It has had a notable drug problem, with 17 overdose deaths in the last few years among those in their teens and 20s, and numerous others not dead but apparently carrying on the message Swampscott natives Fran Sheehan and Barry Goudreau endorsed on the Boston song “Smokin’.”

Bad influences. Bad!

A new principal, Layne Millington, came to Swampscott High, and he decided, after seeing a “huge number of incidents landing on my desk involving drugs and alcohol,” that it was time to frog-march parents in for a meaning to shake them by their collective lapels and slap them upside their collective heads to make them aware of the problem. He did this with the superintendent’s support. From the Salem News:

Asked about reports that drugs are “all over the high school,” Superintendent Lynne Celli replied simply, “They are.”

But…

Recently, Millington’s approach included a surprise appearance by search dogs at the high school — he was heartened by how little contraband they found.

Ah, hell, let’s just go with the superintendent.

So Millington scheduled a meeting for Jan. 10, then browbeat parents into showing up by telling them their children that they (the kids) could not participate in any after-school activities, including sports, if they (the parents) didn’t show up.

Now, he hopes to form “a partnership with the parents, who are really the kids’ first teachers.” To do that, he sees the need for a meeting that carefully spells out the entire effort and the parents’ role in it.

In the past, Millington said, the announcement of such a meeting would draw only a handful of people. His decision to call a “mandatory meeting” won unanimous approval from the superintendent and the School Committee.

There are a lot of parents upset over this. Actually, the only one who appears to be speaking — or being asked — is Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader, who appeared in the Salem News and on local Boston television as a “concerned parent.” Because in the news, a parent “speaking out” is always a “concerned parent.” From the Salem News:

“The school has no legal right to compel parents to do anything,” said Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader [dang it, I mentioned that already]. Acknowledging the concerns of school officials, she expressed the need to be “treated like adults” and added, “We’re not under their thumb.”

As the hippie basketball player in Greensburg, Ind., may well learn, schools get to do all sorts of dastardly things, like make you cut your hair or send your parents to an anti-drug meeting, to let you play sports. So the parents of Swampscott, who either don’t give a shit or feel like it’s not their problem, are stuck.

Except that Millington might not have needed to be so drastic. From a 2009 article in the Swampscott Reporter:

The Swampscott Drug and Alcohol Task Force was pleasantly surprised when the Little Theater at the Middle School filled with parents that night in the first of two sessions planned to educate parents about the real problems in Swampscott.

So maybe they DO give a shit — even if their children’s sports are at stake! Maybe not enough to actually solve Swampscott’s drug problem, but maybe enough that they don’t have to be frog-marched to school on a single night during which they might have a legitimate conflict.

Alas, in his zeal, Layne Millington might have done more harm than good in his relations with the parents at large. Next time, he should propose a webinar. It is an affluent community after all; presumably they have computers.

Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

HS basketball player throws ref to floor

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Hat tip to The Big Lead for this video of a DeSoto County (Fla.) High School basketball player, upon being tossed from the game by a referee, returns the favor by, literally, tossing the ref. (Incident is at 1:25.)

I could go on about how this is the natural progression of referees constantly being berated and threatened by parents, coaches and fans during games at all levels, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Even if it is correct.

Unfortunately for the young man in the video (I can’t find his name anywhere, and the DeSoto athletic director told The Big Lead he wouldn’t reveal it because he wasn’t sure whether the player was 17 or 18), he could face severe consequences for losing his temper, assuming charges are filed. I’m no lawyer, but in this case it would appear that the best course would be battery, defined under Florida law as touching or striking another person, without use of a weapon.

In its 2010 legislative session, Florida bumped up battery of a sports official from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Ordinarily, anyone committing battery has to have a prior conviction on the charge in order for to reach felony status. But if the act is done against a sports official during the course of a contest, the felony battery charge can apply, even if the alleged batterer has no prior convictions, and that means a stay of up to 5 years in a state prison. The lesson being, if you’re going to beat the ref, do so a day later, when a misdemeanor charge would apply.

No no no, the lesson is, keep your temper in check — in the stands, and on the court. Then nobody gets hurt, and nobody goes to court. For all the silly reasons to go to jail, popping off at a referee seems like one of the silliest.

UPDATE: A police report was filed at the behest of the referee, Jim Hamm, 51, of Punta Gorda, Fla. The player was identified as Mason Holland, 18, the captain of the DeSoto County team.

According to a police interview obtained by The Smoking Gun, a “remorseful” Holland said he was upset because he thought the referees were allowing the other team (Port Charlotte) to rough him up, yet calling fouls on his team. Hamm is quoted is saying that though he wanted to file a report, he “did not want to see Mason get arrested and/or go to jail.” That decision may be out of Hamm’s hands.

Written by rkcookjr

December 14, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Carmel basketball hazing victim: “I don’t smile as much as I used to”

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The attorney for the one of the targets of hazing last season by teammates of his Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team — three former members of which are facing misdemeanor criminal charges, not counting the other one who has already pleaded guilty, as a result of hazing incidents — put his client out there, sort of, on Nov. 12 for a news conference.

I say sort of because the rules of the road laid down by attorney Robert Turner included no identifying the victim, no identifying his parents, and no pictures. Still, this is the first time the public has heard from any of the victims of one of the more notorious and talked-about cases of youth sports hazing in recent memory. However, Fox59 News in Indianapolis said the victim holding the news conference was the subject of the Indiana Department of Children and Family Services sexual assault report that blew the lid off the case.

Here are some quotes from the victim, as relayed by The Indianapolis Star:

How has your life changed? “I don’t smile as much as I used to. I don’t laugh and joke as much as I used to.”

Did you embellish your story to authorities? “I’m sure I would not make something like this up. I would not be in the situation I am here if I were making this up. I am very very serious about this.” (Fox59 also has him saying, “Why would I make something like this up?”)

Any advice to other victims for getting authorities to listen? “You just have to keep saying it and saying it.”

Also, the Star quoted the victim’s mother: “You’re supposed to feel safe to go to your leaders, your coaches and your teachers, and know something is going to be done. … They (students) are watching everything that is going on, and saying, ‘what’s the point.’ Look at what we’ve been through and still nothing’s happened.”

In particular, she’s talking about the plea deal for Scott Laskowski, who the previous week had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness. Laskowski, the son of former Indiana University player and longtime IU basketball announcer John Laskowski, was sentenced to slightly less than a year of probation and 40 hours of community service. He also was ordered to stay away from the victim.

Despite the Department of Children and Family Services report saying that the victim was anally penetrated with foreign objects, no felony or sexual assault charges have yet been made against Laskowski and the three others who have been indicted in north suburban Indianapolis’ Hamilton County on misdemeanor charges: Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Oscar Faludon, all of whom, like Laskowski, graduated in spring 2010.

The charges are related to incidents in Carmel’s locker room. Fox59 reported on Nov. 5 that it’s expected the other players will follow Laskowski’s lead and take plea deals, which would certainly eliminate any chance Laskowski would have to testify in their cases. (Also, the judge handling their case on Oct. 27 was arrested for drunken driving while on vacation in North Carolina.)

I say there are no felony or sexual assault charges “yet” because the prosecutor in west suburban Hendricks County is still investigating a hazing incident on the back of a team bus heading back from a January game in Terre Haute. Laskowski, Kitzinger and Hoge were suspended from the team for that incident (Faludon was suspended for the locker-room incident). There’s no word on when those charges might come.

Not surprisingly, the victim’s family — and its lawyer, who is the former public safety director for the Indianapolis police — feel like everyone involved has not investigated or dealt with the hazing case sufficiently. Turner has threatened lawsuits, and said during the Nov. 12 news conference that he will file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney to investigate the Hamilton County prosecutor, the players’ attorneys and others he said have manipulated witnesses. So far, these only have been threats.

In fact, Turner has had a lot of public bluster that hasn’t gone much of anywhere. But whatever Turner’s tactics, what will not change is that the victim will feel the effects of what happened forever, no matter what a court says. It’s cases like this that explain why, say, the Needham (Mass.) High School administration took a zero-tolerance stance toward supposedly far more innocent hazing with its girls soccer team. Hazing is a power trip, and a school trusts its students not to go too far with it at its own, and its students’, peril.

Needham soccer hazing, and why this douchebaggery keeps happening

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In March, I wrote a piece called “Why youth sports hazing happens: because adults say it can.” I’m delighted to report that my hard-hitting look at adult compliance in condoning and/or covering up hazing was a major factor in why, for example, prosecutors find it so difficult to convict or even file cases in the most egregious of examples, has had absolutely no effect, judging by the adults’ reaction when some Needham (Mass.) High School girls soccer players got suspended because of alleged hazing of teammates.

Four seniors and a freshman were suspended for activities that, news reports say, involved victims being led, blindfolded, on dog leashes, then hit in the face with pies. This happened after Needham clinched its conference title Oct. 29.

As hazing goes, this is certainly no broomstick-up-the-anus. But the school was right to take action. School administrators are often criticized for having zero tolerance for anything but zero tolerance, but it can’t condone hazing of any kind. In too many places, what started as an innocent ritual devolved into something far more sinister, sometimes including alcohol, sometimes including activities that could put perpetrators on the sex-offender list for life. If schools are going to take a hard line against bullying, then hazing is included. After all, in hazing, the victims are coerced or forced to participate, lest they be seen as bad teammates or stupid little pukes. Massachusetts since 1985 has had a state law that bars hazing in schools.

As you can imagine, many in the greater Needham community united in the face of such action — united so they could hire a lawyer to try to get an injunction overturning the suspensions, which happened right before the start of the state tournament. On Nov. 8, a judge refused to grant the injunction, saying students did not have an inherent right to participate in school sports, and that the plaintiffs failed to show they could win the case. On Nov. 9, Needham got smoked 7-1 by Brockton in the first round of the state tournament.

Hazing didn’t start at Needham this year. One of the most impassioned defenses of the soccer team was that hazing had gone on forever, but Principal Dickbag for some reason decided this was the year to ruin everybody’s life. Now, on some level, I can understand students — especially the players themselves — reacting this way. They are teenagers. Everything is a tragedy, and, yeah, it would suck to suddenly have your season taken away from you, especially if it’s something no one thought twice about for years.

But they are reasonable, dispassionate observers compared to some of the adults. Who do you think taught these kids to haze, and be outraged when they were told hazing wasn’t allowed?

I learned by watching you!

From the Boston Globe:

The mother of a junior on the Needham High School girls soccer team says that the suspensions of several players on the team for alleged hazing were too severe for what she called a “misguided attempt at team building.”

In an email to the Globe, Needham parent Sharon Lund said that the team was supporting both the players and the team’s coach, who also reportedly has been placed on leave. She said her daughter is a junior on the team who was not implicated in the incident.

“As the parent of an underclassman, I can safely say that the ENTIRE Needham Girl’s Soccer team and parents are UNANIMOUS in supporting each senior who has been placed on suspension and the coach who has been placed on administrative leave, and assert that the event in question in no way warrants the issuing of suspensions by Needham High School,” Lund said in the email. “In a nutshell, there was no intention to harm, nor was any harm perceived by team members, during a misguided attempt at team building.”

She continued:

“In my personal opinion, these girls have handled a serious mistake in a more mature fashion than either the NHS administration or the press has to date. This was an isolated intra-team issue that they resolved to everyone’s satisfaction amongst themselves with active support from the coach, and in the process strengthened the bonds amongst them. As some of the parents have so aptly pointed out, aren’t these the life skills that we want our daughters to have?”

Yes, not having that experience when I ran cross country and track in high school has always been a handicap for me when I got to the part of the job interview where I was blindfolded, led on a dog leash, and hit with pies.

More from the Globe:

In an interview, a 1988 graduate of Needham High School who said he was the godfather of one of the suspended students said he was shocked and disappointed that the girls were suspended.

“This is something that has been going on for years. It is nothing major, and everyone jumped to conclusions so quickly,” said Joshua Melia, a Needham resident. He said he was “angry and disappointed” on behalf of his goddaughter, a senior co-captain, and her teammates for “something so minor.”

“This was not bullying and it was not hazing, but that’s what they are calling it. To just label the kids in that way isn’t fair,” said Melia, who said he was a member of Needham High’s wrestling team, and recalled that minor-league teasing of freshmen team members was common in his day.

In an email to the Globe, Benji Eisenberg, who identified himself as a Needham High graduate, said “Hazing. What’s the big deal?”

“Hazing/initiation rites are one of the most important aspects of team building and bonding,” he said, adding that team “tryouts are almost a hazing experience in themselves.”

I was never in a fraternity, nor any organization where hazing was a rite of passage. Amazingly, I also have been part of organizations where team building and bonding happened, despite no one  having beer blasted up their rectums. So I don’t get this mindset that hazing is some necessary event to ensure team unity. Though the Stockholm Syndrome is, by nature, a unifying experience.

Especially if Yo La Tengo is involved.

At least in the Needham case, the school finally put its foot down, unlike in Bossier, La., where a middle school principal called hazing “tradition,” and in Carmel, Ind., where it took media and public pressure — and a call from child services — before high school administrators took seriously hazing accusations involving the boys basketball team that ended up with charges brought against four players.

So what’s going to stop adults from viewing hazing as anything more than unnecessary abuse? It’s a long train to that station.

When I’ve written about hazing, more often than not I’m writing about a fairly well-to-do community. That’s not to say that hazing doesn’t happen elsewhere, but well-to-do communities tend to have wealthier parents who, say, went through fraternity or sorority hazing rituals themselves (as victims and perpetrators), who are used to getting their way, who are ready to pull out all the stops for their kids as necessary no matter what monsters they might be, and who can pay for lawyers. In the communities, as well, there is pressure to sweep things under the rug so as not to mess up the unofficial idyllic status of their town, where kids aren’t just above average like they are in Lake Wobegon, but are fucking special and have big, important futures that, frankly, kids not from here will never have. Why would you ruin a good kid’s life over some innocent fun, hmmmmm? Needham fits the profile of that well-to-do community.

So, to continue waving my broad brush, the hazing will continue, no matter what school officials say, in these communities because they’re full of adult douchebags. To be fair, these communities also have plenty of adults who don’t support hazing. But enough of them do to ensure that hazing will remain a sad fact of life.

Written by rkcookjr

November 11, 2010 at 1:46 am

Parent goes to youth basketball game, gets stabby

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One of the many reasons I advocate against laws allowing guns at youth sports events is the powder-keg of emotions in the stands. And what can set it off is not necessarily anything going on in the game. A youth sports event can be a wondrous event to bring families together in harmony — or a horrible excuse for broken families to get together to settle their differences.

From The Indianapolis Star:

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. — Police say a man stabbed his wife’s ex-husband during a fight that broke out during a youth basketball game at a Central Indiana school. Henry County Sheriff Butch Baker says 34-year-old Eric Allred, Muncie, suffered a non-life-threatening stab wound to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Baker tells The [Muncie] Star Press that Allred and 27-year-old Christopher Ellis, Middletown, started arguing in the bleachers during Saturday’s game at Shenandoah Elementary School. Baker says the fight then moved into a restroom, where Ellis attacked Allred with a knife.

The [Anderson, Ind.] Herald Bulletin reports Allred is the father of a child who was playing.

Ellis was being held in the Henry County Jail on preliminary aggravated battery charges.

OK, let me rephrase that — people shouldn’t be bringing any weapons to a kids game. At least, though, a knife can do limited damage compared to a gun. And, with no guns allowed, a trigger-happy vigilante can’t decide to step in the middle of a, shall we say, dicey domestic situation.

Written by rkcookjr

November 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

A youth sports punch can get you six years in the clink

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I haven’t seen a punishment this severe for an assault on youth sports personnel, but maybe six years in prison should be a warning to any parent who goes nuts over kids’ athletics — at least to any parent with priors.

From the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn.:

A Minneapolis man will serve six years in prison for punching the commissioner of a Burnsville youth sports association in the face after a sixth-grade basketball game [Feb. 13]

Robin Johnson, 49, also was ordered in Dakota County District Court to pay more than $14,200 in restitution and have no contact with the victims, who were not identified in court Wednesday. Johnson pleaded guilty in June to felony first-degree assault.

According to witnesses, Johnson was taunting at a player to make him miss — during a sixth-grade house league game. Commissioner Jeff Shaud asked him to stop, and when Johnson didn’t, Shaud got out his cellphone to call police. Johnson slapped it out of his hand, and then punched Shaud in the face to register his disagreement with the commissioner.

Police said Johnson landed multiple punches before being subdued by others in the crowd, most notably by a crowd member who kicked him in what my 7-year-old likes to call the “sheen.” (Not named after Charlie, but it could be.)

One of the amazing things about men is that no matter how many times they watch this, they will find it funny. And they will grab their man parts.

As youth sports parents and coaches, we’ve all dealt with nuts, and I don’t mean the kind that Robin Johnson was holding after he was kicked. Often, when writing about these folks, the assumption is they are otherwise normal people who get caught up in the youth sports moment. Alas, if that were always true. Often, many of these nuts bring their nuttiness with them. Johnson, for example, had issues that ranged far beyond his feeling on sixth-grade free throws.

Again, from the Pioneer Press:

In a separate case, Judge Michael Mayer also sentenced Johnson to a year of jail for violating a protection order, a gross misdemeanor, said Monica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Dakota County attorney’s office. Johnson will serve the sentences concurrently. …

Previously, Johnson was convicted in June for violating an order for protection, in 2007 for giving police false information and violating an order for protection, and in 1997 for fifth-degree assault and fifth-degree domestic assault.

So if you’re the type who punches people at random… well, stop. But, please, don’t come to the kids’ games. If you do, there might already be a prison bunk being made up for you.

Written by rkcookjr

November 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Take your gun to the ballgame in one of America’s foreclosure capitals

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In Florida, it’s against state law to bring a concealed weapon to a professional sporting events, even though at a Marlins game a string of automatic gunfire wouldn’t hit anybody.

However, the law doesn’t specify that you’re banned from bringing a gun to a youth sporting event, which is a bit more crowded. So the commissioners in Lee County, Fla., had no choice but to overturn such a ban, thus allowing fans to pack heat in the sort of emotional, hair-trigger environment that makes you think, “You know what this crowd needs? Armaments.” Especially in an area that’s a bit stressed out, what with its one-in-95 houses foreclosure rate being among the highest in the country, a place with a court notorious for its “rocket docket” of speeding through such foreclosures in 10 seconds or less, a place with an area, Lehigh Acres, that has become Exhibit A in how the foreclosure crisis has turned once-thriving exurbs into ghost towns.


“What was that call again, ump?”

One Lee County commissioner spoke about lobbying state legislators to change the law so youth sporting events were included in the gun ban. But, its legal hands tied, the commission voted unanimously to lift its own ban, and signs noting the ban are already coming down.

From the Naples (Fla.) News:

“I’m not against anyone’s right to bear arms nor to have a concealed weapons license, I just find it deplorable that it would be allowed at a youth sports event,” Mert Leeman, Florida’s district 9 Little League administrator.

Howard Gold, president of the South Fort Myers Little League, said the organization goes to great pains to ensure safety, such as doing background checks on coaches and safety checks on equipment.

And sometimes Gold has had to come between parents in heated arguments about calls on the field.

“I’m fortunate to say we have not had any serious situations in 10 years, but that possibility also exists,” Gold said.

No other commissioners commented on taking the issue to state legislators.

Deleting the ordinance language that restricted firearms is expected to settle a lawsuit filed by Amanda Buckley on Aug. 13.

The lawsuit was filed by Buckley’s attorney husband, who apparently had gotten tired of hearing his wife complain about the inconvenience of leaving the Glock behind when catching a kid’s ballgame. A hearing is scheduled Nov. 1 on the lawsuit, but it appears likely the case will be done now that permitted conceal-carry owners can take their gun to the ballgame. So in Lee County, Fla., you can pry houses from people’s warm, live hands, but not guns from their cold, dead ones.

Written by rkcookjr

October 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Middle school cracks down on football players who don’t respect sanctity of dead squirrels

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Now if I found out my son was messing with a dead squirrel, once I was assured he wasn’t having sex with it, I would bring him to the doctor for whatever shots you get for messing with a dead squirrel. However, I would be a bit shocked if messing with a dead squirrel led to his dismissal from his favorite extracurricular activity (that didn’t involve messing with a dead squirrel).

North Branch (Mich.) Middle School, however, countenances no messing with a dead squirrel. From NBC25 in Clio, Mich. (outside of Flint, if you must know):

It all started last week.  Fourteen year old Gabe Wells says he and his teammates were walking back to the school building after football practice.  He saw a dead squirrel in the parking lot that he says had been there for some time.

“I told my coach, ‘Hey, my mom made you dinner,’” says Gabe.

He says his coach laughed and continued on his way.  Gabe says he and his team mates kept joking.

Gabe says he saw a Subway bag, tied it around the coach’s “dinner”, then used it to tie the squirrel to a nearby tree.  He then picked a cigarette butt up off the ground and put it in the squirrel’s mouth, saying, “That is what happens when you smoke, you die.”

That night he even made a post on facebook about it, telling facebook friends he wanted to send the message out, don’t smoke.  He even picked on his father for being a smoker.

The next day Gabe says he got a surprise, when the principal called him down to the office.  He says he spent most of the there, missing class and lunch, after being told he was in trouble for his incident with the squirrel.

The principal accused Gabe of gross misconduct, no pun intended. Gabe’s mother told NBC25 that she was told her son could be suspended from the team for this year, and next year, be suspended from school, and charged with animal abuse. You’d think Gabe had had sex with a live squirrel, for all the outrage. Does PETA protest for abuses to animals previously killed by natural causes and/or when they were run over in the parking lot?

Gabe’s parents knew what to do: alert the media. Gabe’s father dialed up Clio, Mich., and got NBC25 on the phone, and on the case.

NBC25 called the superintendent’s office.  Superintendent Tom English said he knew a dead squirrel had been tied in a tree, an inappropriate incident that other students had to witness, but he was not completely aware of the resulting discipline.

He called back a short time later and said the school had decided all ten students at first believed to be involved would not be in trouble.  Only four of them would face consequences for their actions with the squirrel, including Gabe Wells. They would not be suspended or face charges, but they would be missing the last football game of the season.

Justice is served. And so, apparently if Gabe is around, is squirrel.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Carmel hazing update — if one player pleads guilty, does he sing?

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The legally convoluted Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball hazing case(s) has its lasted twist and turn — one of the players is apparently ready to plead guilty to charges related to bullying a fellow player in the locker room. Scott Laskowski, 20, son of former Indiana University player and announcer John Laskowki, has a plea hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 in Hamilton County (Ind.) Court, which various legal experts contacted by local Indianapolis media say is where Laskowski and his attorneys would be expected to put forward a plea agreement.

If you want all the down-and-dirty details to one of the more infamous hazing cases of 2010, go to the search bar on the right for “Carmel,” and you should get everything.

But the short version is that Laskowski is one of four now-graduated players facing various misdemeanor charges on what have been called hazing attacks, or bullying attacks, or just plain attacks on team members (or one team member) on a bus back from a game in Terre Haute, 100 miles from the north Indianapolis suburb, and in the Carmel locker room. The case became particularly infamous, at least locally and among the readership that spiked when I posted about it, because school officials at first seemed more than happy to accept the team’s explanation that nothing big really happened — until state child protection reported that the assaults could be considered sexual in nature and resulted in injury to one of the victims.

Four Carmel players — Laskowski, Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Oscar Faludon — face misdemeanor charges in Hamilton County for the locker room incident, a decision by the county prosecutor that itself caused a lot of controversy locally because there was a feeling the charges were light compared to the alleged offense. An investigation is still under way by the prosecutor in Hendricks County, in west suburban Indianapolis, where the bus assault was alleged to have taken place.

As I’ve written about before — and put “hazing” into that search bar on the right if you want more details — hazing cases are hard to win, because the defendants tend to circle the wagons, and because there is still a boys-will-be-boys mentality among schools and prosecutors that prevents them from cracking down on athletes, and because there is a fear at schools in well-heeled communities (which is where a lot of these cases seem to take place — such as Carmel) of a hit to their image and to “ruining” the future of “good” kids.

The most interesting part about Laskowski’s apparent interest in a plea deal is that, as experts, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp, point out, in cases involving multiple defendants, one part of a plea deal is that the person then testifies against the others. Leerkamp doesn’t acknowledge that this is the case with Laskowski

But it would interesting if self-preservation is starting to take hold. After all, Laskowski is a “good” kid from a prominent family, and even though to some (such as the victim’s lawyer) the misdemeanor charges don’t go far enough, one wonders (OK, that one is me) if the calculation is being made that the longer this case lasts, the more Laskowski’s bright future starts to dim. If Laskowski does testify against his former teammates, at the least it would be a rare case of the wall breaking down when athletes get in trouble for hazing, bullying, or whatever the hell you want to call it.

Star athletes: Wear purple for the bullied in your school

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It might be a little late to pick out outfits for the next day, but maybe you’ve heard of the effort to have people wear purple on Oct. 20. No, not in solidarity with Brett Favre and his dong, but as a way to speak out against the bullying of LGBT kids, a few of whom, as you might have heard, have been killing themselves as an endgame to the abuse they’ve taken from peers (and probably others). I’ll be wearing my purple underwear, the only purple I have that’s office-worthy, as long as I wear pants over it.

I don’t have the cache of Neil Patrick Harris, nor do I have a video in the first place. I don’t have a solution to bullying, not when the history of humankind is rife with those tearing the shit out a perceived other with ruthless efficiency. (Such as the ruthless efficiency bullies display in picking the most vulnerable victims.) I can tell you, based on what I’ve seen in my own schooling experience and that of my children and others around me (I’ll just leave it at that) that anyone holding out a simple solution — like the radio jagoff I heard locally who talked about self-defense classes as the be-all end-all to ending bullying — is wrong.

However, I can identify one powerful group of influence that could help, if at least not stopping the bullies, making bullying of any kind seem totally uncool. That would be the school jocks.

I don’t mean the track team — I can tell you as a former high school track athlete how little influence we wield. I mean the star quarterback, the top basketball player, the kinds of athletes that are the center of the popular crowd at every school, the kind that set the agenda (intentionally or unintentionally) for manhood, and womanhood’s relationship with it.

A lot of kids at school know bullying isn’t cool, and that the bullied and the bullies are two groups of profoundly unhappy people. But most are afraid to say anything, lest they become a target. However, the star athletes have established their place as school leaders, in that the school isn’t shutting down for a pep rally for the debate team. The jocks don’t have to like the bullied — and the bullies — or invite them to the cool parties, or ask them if they would like to be set up to shag a cheerleader (or the athlete himself).

All I ask is that jocks be — nice. I mean, if you’re the bully, stop. If you see a bully, pull him (or her) aside and make clear that’s not cool. If you see the bullied, ask if they’re OK, and let them know you have their back. If you want to stand up during a pep rally and declare you don’t care who sticks what part in what hole of another person, that’s great, too. The purple on Oct. 20 is being pushed with LGBT bullying victims in mind, but there’s no reason you can’t also stand up for whatever other Other is the target of ridicule.

Of course, I know this is easier said than done. Athletes are notorious for not wanting to make waves. (Michael Jordan: “Republicans buy shoes, too.”) And I’m going to guess that a lot of jocks have parents who would be pissed beyond belief for Johnny Quarterback to be standing up for the weak.

I don’t think having jocks speak up for bullies solves everything. But if anybody can make a bullying culture go away, it’s them.

Thanks to Wall of Paul for reminding me of a great song that talks about “manhood” and sports in school, from a guy whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to get rid of his homosexual tendencies.

Written by rkcookjr

October 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

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