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An angry football mom's sign of trouble

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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.)

[youtubevid id="5znh58WITU8"]

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?

Written by rkcookjr

October 22, 2009 at 12:43 am

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