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Locker boxing: The unofficial varsity sport

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My kids don’t play hockey or lacrosse, or for that matter don’t play any organized sport that involves a locker room. So I must admit I’m behind the times when it comes to the phenomenon known as locker boxing.

Locker boxing — or helmet boxing, as the Wikipedia entry is listed — involves athletes donning their sports’ gloves and helmets for a round of fisticuffs in the locker room. Well, that definition seems obvious, doesn’t it? You try to hit your opponent in the head repeatedly until he’s knocked down, gives up, or has his helmet knocked off. It combines two classics: the stupidity of teenagers, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.

Locker boxing, a common nonhockey and nonlacrosse cause of concussions among hockey and lacrosse players, got back into the news recently thanks to the lacrosse team at Gowanda High School outside Buffalo. WKBW-TV breathlessly reported that it obtained videos of Gowanda lacrossers (or whatever they’re called) engaged in some locker boxing — as if you couldn’t do a search for “locker boxing” and YouTube and come up with a zillion videos.

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This one was added a mere hour before I typed this.

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Whomever posted this made it clear who was fighting by, you know, posting names.

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Yup, girls do it, too.

Unlike, apparently, the videos I posted above, locker boxing actually ended up causing some trouble in Gowanda. Originally the superintendent canceled the lacrosse team’s season after getting wind of the videos, dated April 29. Then under pressure from parents of the 15 team members not present in the video, the school board reversed that decision and suspended only the five players fighting and/or making videos of the fights for the rest of the season. The coach, however, is out for the rest of the year, according to WKBW, so he won’t be at the team’s final game May 25.

From WKBW:

Locker Boxing [sic] was banned by the Greater Toronto Hockey League almost three years ago, but recent news reports suggest that it may be making a comeback in locker rooms across Canada and the U.S. – sometimes with coaches watching from the locker room sidelines.

School officials said [Coach Roy] Logan was not present during the April 29 incident.

Despite the ban, there is still locker boxing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and there are still coaches watching it from the locker room sidelines.

As bad things that can happen in a locker room go, I guess there are things that are worse. Still, what the hell, teenagers? Forget your health and general welfare. Don’t you know how much your parents paid for that equipment? Christ!

You might wonder, with all the shenanigans happening in school sports locker rooms, how come there isn’t more supervision? I’ll give you two words: USA Swimming. The problem with, say, assigning a coach to hang out in a locker room while strapping teens undress and shower together is the line of perverts that would form to volunteer for the supervisory job. I’m not sure whether a coach needs to walk in every few minutes (not regularly — you don’t want the kids to know your patterns) to make sure things are good. Honestly, I’m not sure what you could do, other than what Gowanda did — suspend players and coaches.

You don’t need to install video cameras to track locker boxing. Go to YouTube, and you’ll see the kids have that covered.

Written by rkcookjr

May 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Arizona won't kill school sports — and itself

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With 14 of 15 counties reporting — including its largest, Maricopa — Arizona appears to have passed Proposition 100 by a 64-36 margin. Prop 100, passed first by the state’s legislature, raises Arizona’s state sales tax from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent through 2013, providing an extra $1 billion to schools, health care and public safety, and preventing an immediate $900 million cut — $450 million of it to education — in the state budget.

For purposes of this blog, passage means that Arizona schools will not be eliminating or greatly reducing their sports programs.

As you might recall, in my Prop 100 preview, I talked a lot about how Arizona was making itself the capital of Scared Old White People, what with all the anti-immigrant legislation and the threat of voting down Prop 100 despite knowing the trigger would be pulled on some draconian cuts. With Prop 100’s passage, perhaps Arizona does need to build its Scared Old White People Capitol building yet.

However — and I say this as someone who has broken the tape on 40 — a quote like this one from the Arizona Republic makes me wonder if health reform legislation missed the boat by not really having death panels.

But for Tempe residents Al and Joan Laninga, both retired and registered Republicans, the proponents’ campaign was not necessarily persuasive – at least not in the way it was intended.

Joan, 71, a retired private school teacher, said the amount of the tax was insignificant and she had initially considered supporting the tax hike, but the campaign changed her mind.

“First it was all about having enough police and fire,” she said. “When they changed their focus to education, I figured the whole thing was a scare tactic.”

Written by rkcookjr

May 19, 2010 at 12:02 am

Will Arizona kill school sports — and itself?

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Arizona’s developing quite a reputation for being a state by and for scaredy-cat old white people feeling the hot breath of becoming the minority (which the Census Bureau expects will happen by 2015). The infamous SB1070, another law banning the teaching of ethnic studies, and  a bill coming through that would make schools count illegals and tally up their “cost” — I guess that’s what happens when a real estate market collapses, and white people can no longer sell their houses to flee, um, whatever they call those who are not white people.

It didn’t take a Sarah Palin-assailed girls high school basketball boycott for the state to set up a “hey-weren’t-not-so-bad-commission” to burnish its image as something more than Crazy Coot Cracker Central. It took multiple boycotts by multiple organizations.

Even with all that, the worst hit to Arizona’s image may be yet to come. That will happen if the state’s voters on May 18 turn down Proposition 100, which adds another percentage point to the Arizona sales tax, with most of the money going to schools, as well as health care, and police and fire services. It won’t be interpreted nationwide as an attack on illegal immigrants only. It’ll be interpreted a sign Arizona is closing up shop to pretty much everybody except scared old white people — and even they’re going to be hit if the day comes that budget cuts make an ambulance a lot slower in coming.

How do I know this? Because the of the list of supporters. Among them: pretty much every state and local division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Education Association, the Professional Fire Fighters Association, the Gila River Indian Community, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the Arizona Medical Association, US Airways and the Arizona Cardinals. Basically, a mishmosh of large and powerful and not-so-large and not-so-powerful that rarely stand on the same side of the same issue. Oh, and also the majority of Arizona state House and Senate, and Gov. Jan Brewer, who had to approve of the ballot measure.

Their fear is this: if Prop 100 — which would raise taxes only through 2013, when the provision sunsets — doesn’t pass, the state immediately cuts $900 million from a state budget already collapsing from a housing and tourism bust, including $450 million in cuts from education. This isn’t a threat or a hypothetical. The Arizona state legislature already has a contingency budget passed in case the tax increase is rejected. (The Cardinals also might feel a little guilty for youth sports funding being slashed because tax revenue generated around its new stadium wasn’t up to par.)

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And more than the budget cut is the signal the rejection sends: that the old white people of Arizona are dying, and they’re taking the state with them. Even for business types who get a cold sweat at every mention of a tax, such a loud and public signal of disinvestment in education, public safety and health (the beneficiaries of the tax increase) would let the world know Arizona isn’t willing to step up to invest in its future. I know every state is cutting, and the backers know every state is cutting. But they also know that at least the signal needs to be sent that they feel a little bad about it.

So what does this have to do with youth sports? Plenty. Many Arizona schools already have certain sports, particularly nonrevenue sports and programs for those who are not on the high school varsity — at the ready to get chopped by their budgetary guillotines. From MaxPreps.com:

“If it fails, the announcement has come from our district office that the possibility of eliminating athletics across the board in our district is real,” said Herman House, director of interscholatics for the Tucson Unified School District. House doesn’t think it will come to that. He believes revenue-producing varsity sports such as football, basketball, baseball and softball will survive, but the reality is, if Prop. 100 fails, Tucson will have to shave about $45 million from its annual budget.

“Athletic directors are a resilient bunch and we always seem to find a way,” said Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen, whose district is the largest in the state. “At the same time, there are fiscal realities you can’t ignore. Sometimes, that has bad consequences for the kids.”

Hogen said Mesa was already discussing a pay-for-play fee for all student-athletes. But if Prop. 100 does not pass, that fee will likely rise by 50 percent, putting a hardship on a district with many lower-income families. House said if Proposition 100 fails, his district is also considering restrictions on travel and a reliance upon fundraisers to pay coaches’ salaries and keep sports self-sufficient.

Not to mention, a Prop 100 passage might speed up or intensify a plan by Arizona’s state high school sports authority to cut athletic divisions and tournaments, and set limits on travel, all in the name of saving money.

If Arizona wants a preview of how this would work, it can look at New Jersey, where school districts across the state are slashing sports — and, of course, lots of other, more curricular parts of education — when locals rejected higher school taxes on top of state budget cuts. Or just about anywhere else nationwide, really. Having your funding tied in a big way to property taxes and state government receipts is great when housing prices are flying upward, not so when they’re crashing. Just go to Google News and search “school sports budget cuts,” and you’ll get the feeling in many places this recession means the end of days for school-sponsored sports.

Or look at the past coverage of tax rejections at the Grove City Schools in Ohio, which became national news precisely because the district eliminated sports entirely as a result — but were brought back when voters finally passed a hike. Maybe you don’t notice when the math department cuts a teacher, but everyone notices when the football team isn’t playing on Fridays.

So why does Arizona get the pressure of having its image tarnished by rejecting an education tax hike? Well, there’s the matter of all the other legislative nuttiness in the state. But there’s also the matter of Arizona’s taxes being relatively low to start with. The sales tax hike would go to 6.6 percent. Not bad at all, especially to someone such as myself in Chicago, where the sales tax can go more than 11 percent. That’s not to say Arizonans deserve to get soaked as much as I do. It’s more like the feeling I have when I would hear my parents in Carmel, Ind., carp about their property taxes, and I’d find out they were paying about one-quarter as much for a house that wasn’t worth that much less than mine. It’s just hard to work up sympathy. And least New Jersey’s rejections were understandable, with the state’s extremely-high-in-the-nation property taxes.

However, the main issue is that Arizona’s populace knows exactly what it will get if the tax doesn’t pass. The gun is loaded and at your head — and yet you might still decide to pull the trigger.

If most polls are to believed, about half of the state’s voters are suicidal, with passage of Prop 100 as a tossup. While the supporters are well-funded, the opponents have some politicians on their side, as well as the always more popular stance of not raising taxes.

Maybe what supporters need more than money is 7-year-old Logan Wade. He is the young fan Glendale (Ariz.) City Council member Phil Lieberman credits with convincing him to join the majority vote May 11 for a $25 million guarantee for the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, which play in a taxpayer-funded arena in a taxpayer-financed entertainment district that threatens to go down the tubes if the Coyotes, as is very possible, move back to their ancestral of Winnipeg. This vote, which would come if the NHL-owned, bankrupt team can’t find a buyer, comes despite the city budget deficit of $15 million. But how can you turn down a little kid? From the Arizona Republic:

Councilman Phil Lieberman, who had asked tough questions of staffers, said he was persuaded by Logan Wade, a 7-year-old fan.

“‘Will you vote for this resolution tonight?'” Lieberman said the Glendale boy asked.

“I can’t turn him down,” the councilman added.

What Prop 100 supporters should do is spend their money on jetting Logan Wade around the state on the May 18 election day, and have him wear a jersey for a local high school, asking voters, “Will you vote for Prop 100 today?” Even scared old white people can’t turn him down!

Carmel hazing update: indictments handed down, of players and society

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Here’s the tally, presented May 17, from the long-simmering hazing investigations involving four senior basketball players at Carmel (Ind.) High School:

* Oscar Faludon — one count battery, Class A misdemeanor, two counts criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor

* Scott Laskowski — three counts criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor

Both indicted in relation to locker room incidents at Carmel High. They will be tried in their home of Hamilton County (north suburban Indianapolis).

* Brandon Hoge — one count battery, Class A misdemeanor, one count criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor, one count battery, Class B misdemeanor

* Robert Kitzinger — one count battery, class A misdemeanor, one count criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor, one count battery, Class B misdemeanor

Both indicted in relation to an incident on a team bus driving back from Terre Haute. They will be tried in Hendricks County (west suburban Indianapolis), where the criminal conduct is alleged to have taken place.

I’ll have more on this later. I’m watching the news conference being streamed on Fox59.com.

A quick take:

The grand jury, which heard evidence from at least 57 witnesses, did not come back with any sex crimes or felonies, as alleged in the first incident reports. Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp says the school cooperated fully and is putting a peer-to-peer program in place to help ensure these incidents don’t happen, or if they do, they don’t come out a month after the fact, as happened in the basketball case. However, she did say the school’s initial discussion of the hazing not rising to the level of criminal activity was a result of administrators not having enough information at the time. The grand jury looked at evidence related to three coaches who were supervising, or should have been supervising, at the time of the incidents, but decided no charges should be brought against them.

Leerkamp isn’t divulging details on the indictment, which is sealed because it came from a grand jury. However, she’s very publicly indicting the culture that led to the alleged incidents. In many cases, she said, students interviewed proffered the view that the victims brought it on themselves.

“How does a victim ask to be violated?” Leerkamp said. “That attitude was out there” that a victim indeed does.

Will the players get convicted? They’ve retained Jim Voyles, probably the best defense lawyer in the Indianapolis area. If the East Coast lawyers Mike Tyson’s team hired let Voyles, as a hometown assistant, try the case in the Indianapolis court instead of just push paper, Tyson would have never seen a day in jail, because he never would have been convicted of rape.

The prosecution also will have to deal with, by its own admission, that the kids got the attitude that victims deserve their fate from the adults around them. “I have jurors who have said a women asked to be raped, because of what she was wearing, and that a child asked to be molested, because they crawled on the lap” of an adult who had previously violated them, Leerkamp said.

How can athletes get away with hazing? Because adults allow them to.

“That’s at the core of what happened at Carmel High School, and the core of what we have to deal with,” Leerkamp said.

Girls basketball meets SB1070 and the right-wing outrage machine

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A few days I noted that if anyone in the youth sports world objected to the new Arizona law, SB1070,  that creates a Latino hunting season, I mean, allows police to demand identification is they suspect someone might be an illegal immigrant, a boycott would be an effective way to suck money out of the state and draw some attention to the cause.

I had no idea that someone would take this suggestion seriously (even if, technically, they probably came to the idea independent of me), or that it would succeed so wildly — in the same way Disco Demolition Night was a wild success for the Chicago White Sox. In that, the decision to disallow the Highland Park (Ill.) High School girls’ basketball team to go to a tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., is certainly attracting attention to the cause, but with an out-of-control reaction by a lot of over-the-top yahoos, someone is going to suffer some collateral damage for the unexpected amount of attention it generated. Especially with Sarah Palin getting involved.

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The scene at Highland Park High.

The most likely victim: Suzan Hebson, assistant superintendent of District 113, of which Highland Park is part. She is the one who, apparently all by her lonesome, decided May 12 that the Giants girls’ basketball team should not go to Arizona. According to the Chicago Tribune, she cited safety concerns raised by the new law, what with 15 percent of the district being Hispanic. (Highland Park itself is an upscale suburb, but the district also draws from the poorer, much more heavily Latino suburb of Highwood.) However, the part that got parents riled up and fueled the backlash against her decision was her statement that the trip “would not be aligned with our beliefs and values.”

So instead of going to Arizona and wearing “Los Giants” in protest, the school wasn’t going at all.

If President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics over its invasion of Afghanistan (ah, remember the days when the Taliban was on our side?) taught us anything, it’s that athletes who have worked hard for a big event, and the family members who supported them, get very upset when one person decides to cancel a trip for political reasons. If there’s any doubt this was not a decision by committee, the Tribune story had this line:

District 113 Superintendent George Fornero declined comment, saying it “wasn’t just my decision.” He referred calls to Hebson.

Plus, the coaches running the tournament in Arizona said they didn’t know about Highland Park’s withdrawal until reporters asked them what they thought about it.

While I suggested a boycott of Arizona, let me clarify: I don’t think canceling the girls basketball trip was a good idea. At least when the Phoenix Suns won “Los Suns” on Cinco de Mayo, the Suns’ owners asked the players what they thought, and got their support, before their protest. I could understand Hebson saying, from here on it, no new trips to Arizona. But canceling a trip already scheduled, without checking with anyone? Yes, you’re hurting Arizona (which I have no problem with), but you might end up hurting yourself more.

And here’s where Sarah Palin comes in.

By coincidence, Palin — on her I-quit-being-governor-to-make-scads-of-cash-neener-neener speaking tour — happened on the evening of May 12 to be speaking a few miles to the west of Highland Park, in Rosemont, Ill. With conservative talk radio already starting to get het up over the Highland Park cancellation, Palin decided to throw her folksy weight around on the issue in front of the adoring audience of 4,000. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Them are fightin’ words when you say a girl can’t play in the basketball tournament … for political reasons … so we’re going to see about that,” Palin said. …

Palin said the school is still sponsoring a trip to China.

“You know how they treat girls in China?” Palin said. “It makes no sense. Even if they have to do this on our own. …  If the kids have to ‘Go Rogue,’ girls.”

Bringing up Chinese human rights? That’s such a cheap… such a cheap… dammit, Palin might have a point.

Of course, having the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate and the de facto leader of the Tea Party Republicans weigh in put the backlash against Highland Park and Hebson into overdrive. Actually, Palin, a former high school basketball player, did more than weigh in. She is sponsoring, with a local right-wing radio host, a Facebook page dedicated to demanding the Highland Park girls get their trip back. I would love to be inside the heads of any liberal parents of Highland Park girls’ basketball players, trying to balance there incredible dislike for Palin with the strange sight of her now being on their team.

Palin isn’t specifically sending people after Hebson, but she doesn’t have to. The right-wing outrage machine, fueled by Palin’s interest in the matter, is already all over that, not the least of evidence being the top of the Sean Hannity radio show I caught on my car radio (for research purposes only — by the way, I might be a liberal, but I usually find the local left-wing talk station as predictable and unlistenable). A Fox News story talks about Hebson’s background as principal of the other District 113 high school, Deerfield, and the controversy she courted for various gay-friendly initiatives, including a diversity seminar for freshmen that included gay students and adding gay-friendly literature to the school reading list and library.

Of course, the quotes in the Fox News story are exclusively from parent activists from the starboard side of the political spectrum, and they make it sound as if Hebson was authorizing students to have gay sex in front of each other as an integral part of their education. Instead, Hebson said her efforts were simply a means to make for a safer and more tolerant environment, and this report said only a few parents objected, not the dozens Fox said. Yes, that report is from a gay newspaper, but you want the opposite of Fox if you’re trying to make a report like this fair and balanced. (Sorry.)

The school district itself, under siege, on May 13 put out a letter that explained the REAL reason for the cancellation, a letter signed by Superintendent Fornero himself.

As you are aware, there has been significant media attention to Township High School District 113’s decision to not send the Highland Park High School varsity girls’ basketball team to a tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona scheduled for December, 2010.  This decision is not a political statement regarding the State of Arizona’s recently enacted legislation regarding immigration.

OK, I know you’re going to explain why that’s true. But it might be a little late for that explanation.

Under long standing constitutional law, all school districts are required to provide an education to all children within the District’s borders regardless of immigration status. District 113 boasts a diverse student population and, as a school district, we believe in equal opportunity for each of our students.  The selection of a girls’ varsity basketball team for the 2010-2011 winter athletic season will take place in November, 2010.  The team has yet to be selected.  When our students travel, the school district is responsible, both legally and ethically, for their safety, security and liberty.  We cannot commit at this time to playing at a venue where some of our students’ safety or liberty might be placed at risk because of state immigration law.  Our athletes will play in a competitive basketball tournament during their winter break.

Possibly on the back of Highland Park parents’ cars, instead of “Go [insert daughter’s name here]! Win state!”

So what the superintendent is saying, if I read this right, is that the district is not sending a team because it has a philosophical issue with SB1070. It’s because of the possibility that there will be players who may or may not be the target of police for suspicion of being illegal.

That’s a reasonable discussion. And it’s the discussion that should have taken place between Highland Park school officials, the coaches, the players and their parents before one person made the ill-explained decision to cancel the Arizona trip. The consistent thread in Hebson’s most controversial decision-making — and why in some cases the school system has backtracked — it’s been an inability or disinterest in anticipating problems on contentious issues, putting her district in the position of having to explain, after-the-fact, in a crisis situation what might have gone down with far less difficulty if the discussion had happened earlier.

When I say that Hebson might be the collateral damage in her all-too-successful attempt to put a spotlight on a troublesome state law, I don’t think that means she will lose her job. If she was going to, then her boss wouldn’t have put out a statement supporting her decision. What I mean is, Hebson is going to be the latest Enemy of Freedom No. 1 for the right-wing outrage machine, in ways she never was when she was being assailed for being gay-friendly.

After all, in those cases, Sarah Palin wasn’t fightin’ for ’em.

22-year-old poses as high school basketball player

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Usually the only place you find 22-year-olds portraying high schoolers is in the movies, and the only outsider who wants to be involved with athletics at Permian High in Odessa, Texas, is Buzz Bissinger.

That is, until Guerdwich Monitmere, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native and former junior college basketball player who came to Permian as high school sophomore Jerry Joseph. According to the Odessa American, which has done great work over time chipping away at the mystery of Montimere, Guerdwich admitted on May 11 he was no longer Jerry, and he was placed under arrest.

Montimere had already been held out of offseason workouts when suspicions developed that he was not who he said he was. Maybe the gray hairs gave him away. Apparently Montimere lived with a former high school teammate playing basketball at the University of Texas-Permian Basin, then moved in with Permian coach Danny Wright. From the American:

“He was a family member and that is devastating to my family,” Wright said. “This affected a lot of people. The whole school of Permian embraced that kid. He deceived us and played on everyone involved’s emotions.

“He has been lying to everyone, my God, what is up with that?” Wright said.

Montimere played varsity basketball for the Panthers his sophomore season, which will likely result in the entire season being forfeited.

Permian principal Roy Garcia, who was at the forefront of the investigation, said he was glad the matter has been resolved. “I wanted the truth. Whatever the truth was, we had to get to it.

“I’m absolutely glad that it has been resolved. I feel sick, but now that we’ve gotten the truth, we can move on from here,” Garcia said.

Permian was tipped off, as was the Odessa American, about two weeks ago by sources from Florida who accused the Permian sophomore of being a 22-year-old former Florida player.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were confident the previous week that “Joseph” was an illegal Haitian immigrant, but before Arizona police could get to him, ICE said, upon further review, he was not. But it did discover “Joseph” wasn’t who he said he was, and alerted local authorities in Odessa. Monitmere, as of this writing, is in a holding cell, awaiting charges on presenting false information to a peace officer.

Yet to be answered: Why did Montimere do this? And why didn’t school officials in Odessa have any inkling something was amiss?

Homeschool parents deservedly lose battle to get kids on public school teams

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This piece in the Joliet Herald News makes it sound like the Minooka (Ill.) school board members on the majority side of a recent 5-2 vote in favor of excluding homeschooled kids from sports made a decision tantamount to throwing those kids in the educational garbage can. To the contrary. The homeschooling parents already made their statement about public schools by not enrolling their children in them, so I don’t think they get the right to cherrypick when suddenly they decide the evil government school has something they want.

Before I get to that, a word from Chris Balkema, one of the board members who voted for allowing homeschoolers to play:

“Right now with students and parents who are paying our bills, the current policy discriminates against students who learn at home.”

This is laughable. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. For if Balkema had even the slightest understanding of his state’s laws on homeschooling, and on the state high school athletic association’s rules on homeschoolers, he would have punted this dumb suggestion out the door, too. (Of course, asking a school board member to be educated and even-handed is usually a lot to ask.)

Illinois, actually, is a very friendly state to homeschoolers. A 1950 court decision allowed for homeschooling, treating those children as if they were enrolled in their own little private school. Today, Illinois is one of 10 states that does not require homeschooling parents to alert their public school district that they are teaching their kids at home. A 1974 federal court ruling said that parents in the state have to file some sort of progress report with the district, but no one ever enforces that. So Illinois parents have carte blanche to teach their kids at home without the government poking its nose inside the kitchen, or the dining room, or wherever the home classroom is.

In exchange for being left out of the claws of the local government-run school district, however, home-schooled students can’t participate in it. You might say, but they pay taxes to the district! True. But state funding of the schools is determined by actual attendance. So the homeschooling parents would end up getting services on state taxpayers’ dime. The only services Illinois law mandates are given to private as well as public school students are drivers’ education, and a limited amount of special education. That’s it. But that’s the price you pay for getting to teach your child exactly the way you want, when you want. The Illinois State Board of Education says that districts are under no obligation to provide anything else. They can, but they don’t have to.

Plus, the Illinois High School Association has clear rules on whether private school kids — and, remember, that’s what homeschoolers are — can play for a public school. The rules are, they can’t. If the testimony of Theon Hill at that Minooka board hearing is to be believed, his playing sports at Romeoville High School while still a homeschooler would have been a violation of this IHSA rule:

A student must attend a member school and may only represent in interscholastic competition the member school the student attends. For purposes of this by-law, the term “attend” shall mean that the student is enrolled at the member school,
and is taking at, or under arrangements approved by the member school, a minimum of twenty (20) credit hours of work
for which credit toward high school graduation will be granted by the member school upon the student’s completing and
passing the courses. The school which enrolls the student shall be exclusively responsible to verify the student’s compliance
with all of the eligibility requirements of all IHSA by-laws.

I know that many states have passed so-called “Tim Tebow laws,” allowing homeschool athletes to play school sports. Florida passed the first such law in 1996, though not because of Tebow, who wouldn’t bless high school fields with his presence for about another half-decade. However, Tebow is usually cited as Reason No. 1 for creating such a law, as if every homeschooler was a future Heisman Trophy winner.

Tim Tebow sez: “Hey, homeschool kids! You’re not going to not have sex with someone like this if you can’t play school sports!”

Even if a state doesn’t pass a Tim Tebow law, in some cases courts have allowed homeschoolers to play. One might say, activist courts, if they didn’t have the support of right-wing, Christian organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association. That makes those judges honest, common-sense kinds of people.

The Home School Legal Defense Association itself shows how homeschooling organizations — still overwhelming evangelical Christian, even as homeschooling has spread beyond its population (insufferable liberals instead call it “unschooling” to separate themselves from the conservative rabble) — try to play both sides of the high school football field chain-link fence.

After a West Virginia lawsuit the HSLDA supported successfully overturned the state’s rule preventing homeschoolers from playing public school sports, the victorious attorney declared that the “homeschooled are part of the public education system.” The HSLDA said, um, no, they’re not: “HSLDA disagrees with this statement. Homeschooled children are privately educated and have only minor contact with the public school system.”

Yes — only the contact that homeschool families choose to have, the kind that makes up for what homeschoolers lack, without exposing them too much to bad things like cooties, street gangs, and Catholics.

Look, homeschool parents: you’re either all-in, or you’re out. It doesn’t hurt to ask a public school if little Mordecai can play, but if it says no, don’t walk out in a huff and act like you’ve been denied your inalienable rights. Plenty of other parents across the country have set up networks of homeschool athletic leagues, bands, choirs, you name it. Don’t have one in your area? Here are some resources for starting one.

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An example of a homeschool league. Also, an example of possible trademark infringement that might draw a letter from the NCAA.

Failing that, your local parks departments or independent sports leagues have teams that are open to anyone with only one qualification: the check clears. There are club teams you find as well. In fact, you’re better off with them if you think little Esther Homeschooler has a shot at a college scholarship, because most coaches scout elite leagues; they don’t even bother to look at school sports anymore.

For those Minooka, Ill., parents all upset that their kids aren’t going to be future Indians, if it means that much to you, put your kids in public schools. And trust that your influence doesn’t disappear the moment your child is out of your sight, and that you can still educate your child even when others are doing some of that work for you.

How SB1070 may ruin Arizona school sports

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For all the talk about the local NBA team’s “Los Suns” statement and possible sports boycotts of Arizona over its new law demanding police play brownshirt with brown people, the Arizona Republic looks at a more salient, everyday sports issue regarding the bill: how is it going to affect high school sports?

That seems like a fairly minor concern, but the story brings home the point that in many areas of Arizona, they’re not worried about fans boycotting games. They’re worried about athletes leaving town and, in effect, boycotting games.

From the Republic:

It’s impossible to accurately measure the influence SB 1070 will have on high school sports in Arizona. But coaches and administrators in school districts that are heavily Hispanic fear a reduction in enrollment this fall as families leave the state, leading to fewer kids playing sports.

“We think it will probably have a chilling effect,” said Craig Pletenik, spokesman for the Phoenix Union High School District, whose enrollment is 78 percent Hispanic. “This law doesn’t just affect those who may not be documented; it impacts a lot of immigrant families with American-born kids.”

Katherine Bareiss, director of community relations for Mesa Public Schools, is concerned that individual schools within districts could take a bigger enrollment hit, thus creating a competitive disadvantage in some sports. Mesa High, for example, is 49.5 percent Hispanic while Mesa Mountain View is only 14.2 percent.

Bareiss says that she knows that illegal immigrants are part of the scholastic and athletic makeup of her school district, but that it doesn’t ask, and it doesn’t want to know. Legally, nobody has to tell.

Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe, children of illegal immigrants (or children who are illegal themselves) are protected from discrimination in public schools. The 5-4 decision ruled against a Texas state law that would deny funding education to children of illegal immigrants, and denied the Tyler (Texas) school district’s attempt to collect a $1,000 per-child fee from illegals. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had no compelling interest for discrimination, particularly against children, who presumably had no say in where they lived, and their immigrant status. (The Republic story cites ths case.) Except to hear more about Plyler v. Doe as legal battles over the new Arizona law take shape.

However, schools’ concerns are not just about whether there will be enough athletes for a team once SB1070 is in full effect. They also wonder what will happen to the athletes that remain. Again, from the Republic:

What if, Pletenik said, a bus driver carrying a team to a sporting event makes an illegal left-hand turn and is stopped by a policeman, who, after peering inside, asks players to show proof of citizenship?

I’ll take it one step further. What if the bus driver is asked to show papers? What if the people who maintain the field are asked to show papers? What if the people who clean the gym are asked to show papers?

I don’t want to turn this into the same flip tone that inspired the Naperville (Ill.) Sun to run this headline the day of a large immigration rally in downtown Chicago: “The Day the Lawns Weren’t Mowed.” But what Arizona athletic programs will discover — heck, what all of Arizona will discover, is just how integrated illegal immigrants are into the fabric of life.

You could look at the scenarios drawn up by the educators in the Republic article and say, hey, they’re illegal, right? So what’s the problem? And, technically, yes, they’re illegal, so, yes, they are violating the law. However, the dranconian Arizona law — on top of the state’s lousy economy and little hope of another construction boom anytime soon — could drive out not only illegal Latinos, but legal ones as well.

So that’s why you might see some emptier fields at Arizona high schools very soon. And a lot of white people griping about why the gym isn’t as clean as it used to be.

Written by rkcookjr

May 7, 2010 at 1:04 am

How bullying can happen: mass parental indifference

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You don’t have to be a parent who explicitly encourages your child’s bullying behavior, or knows of it and doesn’t discourage it, for such abuse to happen at school. Sometimes, all it takes is good people doing nothing.

Such as at East Middle School in Biscoe, N.C., where 12 students face juvenile charges for sexually hazing and bullying 13 younger members of the school baseball and soccer teams. Fox 8 News in Greensboro is reporting the efforts the school is making to get counseling for the victims and institute new anti-bullying programs.

But the school already tried reaching out to parents three months beforehand — and their efforts were met with a collective shoulder-shrug.

From Fox 8:

Officials at East Middle School held a poorly attended bullying awareness and prevention program for parents just three months before a dozen students face assault and sexual battery charges in connection with a sports team hazing ritual.

Attendance records show six parents attended the program, which was held in January.

I can’t get too haughty about how East Middle School parents must be horrible and ignorant, because my son’s junior high hosted a cyberbullying session for parents, complete with a speaker from Vermont whose son committed suicide after a long stretch of being on the receiving end of such activity. About 150 chairs were set up in the school gym. Counting me, seven parents showed up.

Of course, some parents don’t show because they’re working, or they can’t get child care. But, really, these pitiful numbers speak — to me, anyway — about how much parents want to put their heads in the sand about bullying and hazing. They figure if their kid isn’t a bully, or a victim, who cares? Or, more than that, they could never imagine their child in either position, so why bother? Or, worse yet, they chalk up such behavior as a normal part of growing up, so kids should just suck it up and tough it out — just like they did.

I don’t think the schools — or myself — are asking for parents to be rabid anti-bullying activists. It would be nice, though, if they would acknowledge that the behavior exists, and it’s not a good thing.

Carmel hazing update: A grand jury is called, and a lawsuit is on the way

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One of the two prosecutors involved with investigating criminal charges related to hazing by Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team members said in March that she didn’t see any reason for her inquiry to go “on and on.” Yet it’s nearly May, and on and on the criminal case goes — just as it appears a civil case is just beginning.

The latest development in the criminal investigation is that Hamilton County prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp, investigating a police report of hazing inside the Carmel locker room on Jan. 8 that may involve a sex crime, has called a grand jury to hear evidence in that case.

Fox59 in Indianapolis is reporting that the grand jury, which convened April 23, also is hearing evidence regarding three players accused of possible sex crimes for a Jan. 22 hazing incident that took place on the 100-mile bus ride back to the north Indianapolis suburb from a game in Terre Haute.

Other outlets are reporting merely that Hendricks County prosecutor Pat Baldwin’s investigation is taking longer than expected because there are “just more people to hear from.” Hendricks County, located west of Indianapolis, is the venue for that investigation because any crime is alleged to have taken place while the bus was motoring along there.

In any case, why a grand jury? Here is an explanation from WIBC radio in Indianapolis that seems to speak to a common reason why youth sports hazing cases don’t get prosecuted — all parties’ tendency to clam up unless legally compelled to speak:

Leerkamp says she turns to a grand jury in cases in which witnesses’ statements need to be pinned down under oath, or to help compel witnesses to testify. She says she’s also used grand juries in cases where she feels the community’s guidance is needed on whether charges should be filed.

In the Carmel case, another factor may be confidentiality. Prosecutors, school officials and Carmel police have released little information about the locker-room accusations and a separate investigation of an incident on the basketball team bus. In both cases, the city of Carmel released only heavily blacked-out versions of the police reports.

Maybe confidentiality wasn’t exactly the right word, but the point is that often those involved in hazing incidents, including the victims, dummy up like mobsters, making it difficult if not impossible for a criminal case to fly.

With a grand jury (available in all federal cases but in only half of states), a prosecutor has a chance to run a rough draft of the case by people from the outside world, and subpoena witnesses to testify. However, in Indiana, there are no guarantees that the accused will take the stand in front of the grand jury. From Gregg Stark, a Carmel-based defense attorney:

Experienced criminal attorneys know to advise a client that he or she need not appear before such a body if they are a target of a criminal investigation or restrict or eliminate their testimony altogether if their appearance could diminish their legal protections and incriminate them where called as a witness.

What might be surprising to people is the fact that a criminal defense lawyer may not appear before a grand jury once the client comes before it to give testimony.

Certainly, both the Hamilton and Hendricks county prosecutors are being extremely careful, as well they should if they want criminal charges to happen, and stick.

A criticism of the grand jury system is that prosecutors can slant the proceedings to get the indictment they want, but I don’t see that happening here. The case is too fragile and politically explosive — with a backlash possible from Carmel basketball supporters and whatever people of power the accused team members might know, or from anyone who feels like authorities have been too accommodating in the name of trying to keep Carmel’s image as a desirable, posh suburb from tarnishing.

Of course, as we might remember from the O.J. Simpson case, a civil suit doesn’t have nearly the hurdles a criminal case does to have every fact straight. If you follow the Carmel hazing case, you could learn this lesson all over again. From WRTV in Indianapolis:

The attorney for one of the victims in an assault involving Carmel High School basketball players has notified the school district that the family plans to sue.

Robert Turner was retained last month by one of two freshman boys who school officials previously said had been hazed by three senior players as the team returned home from a boy’s basketball game in Terre Haute on the night of Jan. 22.

Turner told 6News’ Joanna Massee that the suit will be filed in federal court and will allege, among other things, that the boy’s civil rights were violated.

Written by rkcookjr

April 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm