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Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts

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.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 5, 2011 at 12:48 am

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

Local YMCA bans spectators from youth basketball playoffs

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You can’t watch your kids play at the YYYYYY, M, C, A!

Like high schools that have banned fans because of suspected gang activity or threat of violence in the crowd, the Tri-Community YMCA in Southbridge, Mass., has closed its Feb. 27 fifth-grade-and-up basketball championships to all but players, coaches and officials because of some other unruly mob — the players’ parents.

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

An e-mail sent out to the parents cites “unsportsmanlike behavior from some parents” during the last couple of weeks.

The e-mail says a few people have become “belligerent” in the stands, even after being spoken to, and have been “setting a bad example for children.”

“All must know that this is inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated.”

YMCA Director Edward Keefe and YMCA Recreation Director Susan Casine agree it was a very tough decision to make.

“There was a lot of discussion. We didn’t make the decision lightly,” Mr. Keefe said. “This is the last game. This is the last week. We want the kids to have fun, have a positive experience and close out the season on a positive high.

“We don’t want to affect the parents who go to every game and behave themselves and cheer on their kids,” Ms. Casine said. “But we need to make sure that unsportsmanlike behavior from parents doesn’t get out of hand.”

In the comments section — always the most fun read in these stories — one self-identified parent sounds a little, well, belligerent over the decision. From a martyr going by the handle “Innocent yet punished:”

I am a parents with several children who have been participating in the program for several years. I heard about my punishment on the news last night. Interesting that no one bothered to email, write or call. My children have not caused problems and neither have my husband and I. Now we are all being punished to send a message to the poorly behaved parents. What message is being sent to my family? You have to pay for the sins of others. Bring your children up right and teach them to do what’s right and then teach them that behaving has no benefit because they will be punished for something they didn’t do. Do you think I want my children alone in the gym with the same children that swear like their parents and have no problem causing problems? Do you think I want my children left alone without me to witness the adults in charge not having enough courage to eject misbehaving parents and children? I don’t think so. Let me ask the question again of the adults in charge, what message are you sending to my family? Those same misbehaing parents and children will be back next season, how many of the well behaved parents and children will be back? I don’t want my children and I to receive more punishment next season for something we don’t do.

Hey, Jesus had to pay for the sins of others, too, Innocent yet punished, and you didn’t hear him complaining. (OK, maybe a little.)

Other commenters suggested that the Y have the local police or extra security to take care of belligerent parents, which sounds reasonable, except when you ask yourself, the YMCA needs cops to handle a fifth-grade basketball game? In the Star & Telegram article, the Y officials pointed out that they, and the referees, have tried to eject unruly adults or get them to moderate their behavior, but with no success. Apparently they subscribe to the common American fan credo that if you pay your money ($52, or $35 if you’re a Y member), you get to do or say anything you damn well please.

The martyred parent does bring up a good point, though, about whether the “good” parents will bring their kids back for next season if they face the probability of not watching their children play and other people’s children swear. This is why the Y and other leagues are always in such a quandary about what to do about problem adults, because no matter how they do it, they upset their revenue base.

Written by rkcookjr

February 26, 2010 at 10:11 am

Massachusetts, if you can't play nicely, we're taking the football and going home

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Given I’m about to, for the third time in 10 days, write about criminal activity surrounding football in Massachusetts, I’m calling for a ban on the game in the state, up to and including the New England Patriots.

2265020491_86b6f3ce15Anyone still remember Spygate?

The latest case involving the Massachusetts constabulary comes from the suburbs of Boston, where authorities Oct. 30 charged a 17-year-old Arlington Catholic linebacker with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly head-butting a rival from Abington after a play was over — and after the Abington player’s helmet had already popped off.

The linebacker in question, James LaShoto, was suspended from his team for two games after the Sept. 19 incident (the minimum under state athletic association rules for unsportsmanlike conduct, though no penalty flag was thrown during the game). The Boston Globe quotes his lawyer describing him as an honors student and captain of the team. The attorney called the hit “an unfortunate play” and that charges were a “misuse of the criminal process.”

The charges were pressed by the parents of the player who was the head-buttee — Daniel Curtin, 17, who suffered a deep cut to his forehead that had to be glued shut, and has been told he’ll have a scar there the rest of his life. “We’re hoping that by doing this, this doesn’t happen again to anybody,” Daniel’s mother, Paula, told the Globe.

There’s only one way this won’t happen to anyone again — a ban on football in Massachusetts. With this, the East Lynn Pop Warner team with homeless beaters on it, and the coach charged after popping a parent, maybe the game is more responsibility than the state can handle.

Plus, it’ll stop ridiculous TV reports like one turned in by Jorge Quiroga of WCVB in Boston. I don’t care how many awards he’s won — what made Quiroga think  it was a good idea to have a fake POV shot through a facemask of his helmetless, hairless head, followed by a blurred shot of the field? If he was trying to let viewers know what being head-butted was like for Daniel Curtin, why didn’t he go all the way and have the camera head-butt him?

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Written by rkcookjr

October 31, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Pop Warner fight: Everett Crimson Tide vs. East Lynn Homeless Beaters

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Above is the latest viral youth sports outrage — an Oct. 25 fight between 11- and 12-year-old Pop Warner players representing Everett and East Lynn, Mass. Yes, it’s awful and unfortunate, although it wasn’t knock-down, drag-out to the point of police having to show up. (Those sirens you hear in the background make you wonder how quick the authorities are in Everett, Mass., except they’re going by on their way elsewhere.)

So while it was bad, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It appears to be kids getting chippy at the end of a title game that the Everett Pop Warner president, in a beautiful Boston accent, informed the local Fox affiliate was for “all the mahbles.” (The game was called with East Lynn winning, 25-0.)

However, in the Fox report, the report on the brawl took a bit of a jarring turn one minutes and four seconds in, when report Frank Mallicoat informs the audience of “what makes this fight even more alarming to parents.” Before the season, six 11- to 14-year-olds, “all of which are affiliated with the East Lynn Pop Warner football program,” were arrested on charges, including attempted murder, related to the beating of a homeless man in a Lynn park, a man allegedly targeted because of his Guatemalan ancestry. (Homeless beatings seem like kind of a Lynn thing. It was the third such assault in a month.)

As Mallicoat said, three of those players, after the July attack, practiced with their Pop Warner program with an additional piece of equipment — an ankle monitor. However, all were thrown out of the program before games started. Still, the implication remains: there are at least some people in the East Lynn Pop Warner program who don’t rule out hate crime-related attempted murder as a standard for its players. I don’t know about East Lynn, but I believe it meets the standards of most leagues: if the check clears, they’re in.

Written by rkcookjr

October 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Youth football coach enforces team rules by punching player's father in the face

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As a youth sports coach myself, I can certainly relate to the Pop Warner coach in Wilmington, Mass., who was frustrated that a parent dropped off his child 10 minutes late to practice. It’s highly disruptive, because your limited practice time goes out of whack when everyone isn’t there on time.

However, I’ve never slugged anybody over it. But maybe that’s because I’m slender.

From the Boston Herald:

A Wilmington Pop Warner football coach has been charged with viciously beating the parent of one of his players after being called a “fat bastard” for making a kid run a lap.

William D. Reynolds, 43, was charged with aggravated assault and battery in Friday’s attack on Michael VonKahle, 48, according to a complaint filed by Wilmington police [Monday] at Woburn District Court.

VonKahle suffered broken bones in his face, according to police. Reynolds, who could not be reached for comment, will be arraigned Nov. 17.

VonKahle told police he joked to Reynolds, “If anybody needs to run laps it should be you, you fat bastard,” according to a report.

Ten minutes later, Reynolds asked if they could talk, then led VonKahle to some nearby woods, where he repeatedly punched a stunned VonKahle in the face, police report.

Reynolds told cops VonKahle “had fighting on his mind” and threw the first punch.

fat_bastard_chardonnay_2005

Maybe the dad meant to say, “If anybody needs something to make gums flap, it’s this, Fat Bastard.”

The league has suspended Reynolds pending the police investigation. More on that, and a picture of VonKahle’s face (he suffered eye socket and facial injuries, including broken bones and missing teeth), are in this Boston Globe article, which concludes thusly: “In a telephone interview yesterday, local Pop Warner board member and the board’s football director, Mark Ferreira, said: ‘Any youth program is supposed to set examples, but there were no examples set by anyone out there.’ ”

Sure there were. The other parents learned the consequences of bringing your kid to practice late, and calling the coach a name. Next time someone does that with me, I’m going to pull the father aside and… and… well, probably get myself beat up. I’m slender.

Written by rkcookjr

October 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Sports on Friday, Saturday and SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!!!!

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Alas, while we know Jan Gabriel invented “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” doing ads for the US 30 Dragstrip in Hobart, Ind., in the 1970s, it is still lost to history who invented “you’ll pay for the whole seat, but YOU’LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!!!!!!”

Following (way behind) Pope John Paul II’s admonition for kids not to play organized sports on Sundays comes a message from multiple Christian churches in Worcester, Mass., for leagues to stop scheduling, and kids to stop playing, games on the modern Sabbath.

From the local Telegram & Gazette:

… This weekend, pastors from 17 churches of various denominations in Webster, Dudley, and Oxford are imploring their congregants to set aside Sunday as “a time of rest and reprieve from a busy week.”

The pastors, many of them members of the nine-member Webster-Dudley Ecumenical Group, are also asking sports league officials not to schedule games or practice on Sunday mornings.

The Rev. Luke A. Veronis of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster said the demands of today’s secular society have drastically cut in on family and church time.

“Some parents who want to spend time with their kids on Sunday and who want their children to go to church feel that they are the parental oddballs,” said Rev. Veronis. …

He said that kids are even feeling the pressure, noting that there are altar servers in his parish who are conflicted about fulfilling their spiritual obligations by going to church or playing sports with their teammates.

Rev. Veronis said he even had to face up to the issue, telling his 10-year-old son, Paul, that he could not play youth football because the schedule conflicted with Sunday church services.

“It was tough telling him he couldn’t participate. Obviously, he didn’t really understand. All he knew was that his friends would be out on the field playing ball while he had to go to church,” explained Rev. Veronis, noting that Sunday became less family-day friendly with the easing of the state’s commercial blue laws years ago.

He said it is difficult to counsel parents on the matter because many have turned youth sports into a “religion.” He said others give in to their children’s wishes because they don’t want their kids to view them as bad parents.

Complaining about the end of blue laws? Believing their followers see sports as a religion? Sounds like these men of the cloth are getting tired of getting the holy shit beat out of them by the competition.

24554233_e6e183c361

Hey, cut that out.

Written by rkcookjr

May 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm