MSD Board approves student, athletic handbooks changes

By Emma Rausch

The MSD of Wabash County Board of Education approved changes to its student and athletic handbooks at its meeting Tuesday, June 27. However, the decision was not unanimous.

The changes passed after 3-1 with Board member Todd Dazey acting as the sole vote against. Board member Gary Fadil was absent.

Dazey told the board that his disapproval was based on discussion of the athletic handbook’s policy that arose at the board’s June 13 meeting.

On June 13, board member Matt Driscoll broached the topic of the policy regarding “first offense on the dealing, selling (or) distributing alcohol, tobacco (or) controlled substances.”

“Is that arrest or conviction?” Driscoll asked Paul Voigt, Northfield High School principal, who was presenting the handbook for approval.

“A first offense … has nothing to do with arrest or conviction,” Voigt replied. “It has everything to do with if they were in possession of it or if we deem that there was a violation, so if they were at a party or (something of the like). Whether they were arrested or not, we’ll investigate it and if we can confirm yes that person has or has not taken part in such illegal activities, then they will be suspended.”

However, even with suspension, a student athlete may be allowed to still practice with his or her sport team, he later added.

Dazey broached his concern with the policy’s stance on the matter.

“Possession of alcohol and controlled substances without a prescription from a doctor is against Indiana criminal code,” he said, “and I personally believe that even the first offense of possession of alcohol or controlled substances should require that student miss the remainder of that season, not just 50 percent of the year or require (attending) the Bowman Center. That’s my own personal feeling.”

He later added, “I don’t have a problem with necessarily with the term of ‘50 percent or rest of the season’ if it’s not a criminal offense. In other words, an athlete who is 18(-years-old) or older who was in possession of tobacco. That’s not against the law. It would be against our policy so I would agree with having some sort of disciplinary consequence for that, but my personal feeling is if they’re breaking the law, they should lose privileges to play that sport for the remainder of that season.”

Driscoll said he appreciated Dazey’s stance.

However, “some kids need a break and sometimes sports are just their out,” he added. “I don’t want to ruin that. Everybody makes mistakes.”

Board President Kevin Bowman agreed with Driscoll.

“When we get in these discussions, I would say if we could just individualize it, if you didn’t have this broad umbrella we have to have,” Bowman said. “I wish there was an individualized (policy).”

Dazey said, from his stance as a parent, if his student athlete had possession of alcohol or illegal substances, “I would personally make the decision that you’re done for the season. That’s how I feel about it.”

On a personal level, Southwood Assistant Principal Joe Lacey disagreed with Dazey’s stance, adding, “Some of those student athletes land on that sideline having that suspension and then opportunity to come back, that’s a saving grace for that kid.

“They need that team or they need that culture,” he continued. “They might not have those folks at home to make sure they land on the right path, but having that coach bark in their ear, say, ‘You need to get yourself on the right track,’ that to me, I’d rather move more in that direction.

“If the kid made the mistake, there definitely needs to be a punishment there, but at the same time, I want there to be an opportunity to salvage something out of it.”

Posted on 2017 Jul 11