MSD approves Athletic Code

By Emma Rausch

MSD of Wabash County’s Athletic Code was approved Tuesday, Sept. 26, with only changes made to replace slashes with “and or.”

The policy’s changes passed with a 3-2 vote after nearly a 30-minute discussion regarding a possible additional revision to the code proposed by Board member Todd Dazey.

On Sept. 19, Dazey introduced an amendment that established harsher punishment if a student violated state code, specifically in terms of possession of alcohol, tobacco or a controlled substance. If implemented, students found in violation would miss the remainder of the scheduled season on first offense, with the option of lessening the punishment by 25 percent if the student attended the Bowen Center. Upon second offense, the student would miss 365 days of sports.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Board member Matt Driscoll proposed to make the Bowmen Center a requirement.

“I think (Dazey’s amendment for first offense) is too lenient. Period,” Driscoll said, adding that it should be “minimum half a (season) and take the Bowen Center also. And if that season is three-fourths done—if they normally play basketball after football—you prorate it to that. I think they need to go to the Bowmen Center, too. … And if they want to reduce that some way, I would have them drug test weekly on their dime. Then you can reduce some of it.”

However, Board member Gary Fadil disagreed with the amendment.

“For the first offense, say somebody makes a mistake and that this child has been good and they do something stupid once, we could actually do more harm to this child by swinging that pendulum,” Fadil said. “I feel like we’re swinging this pendulum so far to the right that we’re going to do some damage, because this is your first offense, you’ve been caught, you have to sit out. … You can also now push them to the other side and they say, ‘Ok. I’m done. I’m done for the year. Now I can go and do things unsupervised,’ and we could actually do more hard than good and that’s my concern when we’re looking at completely throwing them out for the whole season.”

“My point would be that the good that we’re doing is that, even with the whole season’s suspension and the loss of the remainder of the season, we’re still doing something far less punitive than what could happen to them if they were arrested,” Dazey replied. “People get arrested and go to jail for first offenses all the time. We’re not doing that. We’re letting them know, ‘Look your actions have consequences and that we take them seriously and we should because you have violated Indiana law by being in possession of drugs or alcohol.’”

Board member Todd Topliff questioned how many students the amendment would affect.

“The goal would be to have zero,” Driscoll said, “and sometimes with growing up, your mom or dad said, ‘No.’ They gave you thing and things you couldn’t do. So you could do this as a reward.”

“I’m not arguing with that point,” Fadil said in response. “My concern is that we are the executioner. We are the worst hammer that they are ever going to (experience in school). What we are trying to do is educate (with) this policy, but when we look at this, … we are to be encouraging. We are supposed to have those types of activities that say, ‘You know what? You do this, you cross the line, here’s step one. You do it again, it’s step two.’”

Dazey noted that the current policy has been in place for a while and students still violate it.

“They know when they signed up for sports that was the policy and they still chose to violate it,” he said. “So now we give them this as the policy and when they know that they’re violating it, ‘I have bigger consequences waiting ahead of me.’”

Fadil questioned the board’s goal with the amendment.

“What are we trying to do as an educational system?” he asked rhetorically. “What are we trying to do? We’re trying to get them to understand consequences. We want to grow them, we want to educate them and also know consequences. But we’re also not going to cut them off at the knees and say, ‘We are throwing you out because are no good.’ And we are saying that, in my mind, at the first time. We are saying you are trash, you are done and go sit there or go home or go drink or go do drugs because we don’t care at this time because we’ve just (washed our hands of the situation).”

“I think what we’re supposed to be teaching in team sports is the whole reason to have team sports,” Dazey replied. “We have team sports, I believe, is so we can teach a child they have a responsibility to other people. You have a responsibility for your teammates and you do what’s necessary to be a part of the team so it can be successful. And if you’re going to do things that take you away from that, then you have not lived up to that responsibility. … We have lots of goals in our education system, but one of the things that we have to do is to teach the person to be a good person.”

Superintendent Mike Keaffaber told the board that he had been in contact with other Three Rivers Conference superintendents.

“One (superintendent) talked about how it is a teachable moment when a mistake is made,” Keaffaber said. “I think administration, including central administration and principals, we still propose the Athletic Code (with the initial revisions). Part of it is, according to (neuroscience), … all the way up until 25(-years-old) the brain is still working and still growing. Different things are still happening and I don’t think students just consciously look at (the policy) and say, ‘Ok this is what I want to do or not going to do.’ And I do agree that there are consequences for their actions. There always are, but I do agree that we do have to have those teachable moments.

“Having a coach in your ear when you’re standing at the sidelines saying, ‘This is what happens when you do that. Don’t make that mistake again.’ Obviously, I think they are some of the people that have the most influence.”

The board had the option of voting for the revised version of the Athletic Code with changes made to replace slashes with “and or” or to implement Dazey’s policy.

In the 3-2 vote, Fadil, Topliff and Board Chair Kevin Bowman voted for the revised version with Dazey and Driscoll against.

Posted on 2017 Oct 10