"Parents find fault with athletic code, others voice support"

"Those who demanded immediate changes to the South Whidbey School District athletic code left disappointed from Tuesday night’s school board meeting.A crowd of 50-plus critics of the athletic code comprised most of the audience at the well-attended meeting. A new code was adopted last March after 18 months of consideration, but now some parents are complaining.Most of the 11 people who signed up to speak were critical of the code. The code deals with athletes’ use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. In short, an athlete can follow a program and stay with his or her team after one violation, but a second violation kicks them off for one calendar year.It’s the second violation banishment that encouraged Clinton resident and attorney Peter Moote to address the board. Days prior to the meeting he had submitted a proposed code change, hoping it would be acted upon that night. But no board member placed the change on the agenda.Moote, who had input on the new code last year, said that after watching it take effect, “It’s not meeting the purposes of what it was intended to accomplish.”After the second violation, Moote noted, there is no treatment option -- the athlete is simply removed from the team. “We’re kicking them out with no constructive activities,” he said. He recommended more counseling and treatment after the second offense, and allowing athletes to practice with their teams but not compete in games. “Keep them with their teams, their peer group,” he said.Moote’s position was backed up by Bob Hezel, longtime youth coach, who said, “I can’t seen any reason in my heart why a child in that (sports) program shouldn’t be kept in there.” He described the present athletic code as “totally unacceptable.” Similar sentiments were expressed by Jim Mock.Robert Watson seconded a Moote suggestion that a new committee be comprised to study the code, and added that the code’s reach should be expanded beyond athletics. “Now it’s prejudicial toward the athlete,” he said, suggesting that class officers, jazz band members, and other students involved in extracurricular activities be held to the same standards.Taking another tack, Pam Reuland complained that school administrators are spending too much time investigating alleged athletic code violations, and they should not be involved in “off-campus, non-school activities.” Such investigations take time away from on-campus concerns, she said, and raise questions about the rights of suspects in possible criminal activity. Leave those areas to parents and police, she urged as she submitted a petition signed by others concerned about such issues.But not everyone was ready to throw out the long-considered athletic code and start over. Jamie McNett reminded the board that “board policy is the law in your realm and it needs to be carried out,” and that “two years of work went into the revision of the code.”Suggestions for change made that night had already been considered, he noted. “These ideas were kicked around ad nauseum.” In addition, McNett said the students need to be educated about the code. “Please make the students aware that this is real,” he said.Bill McAfee gave a spirited defense of the present, tough athletic code. “I thinks it’s a decent, fair and forthright policy statement,” he said. “It’s time to hold people accountable for their behavior.”The board, including newly sworn in members Bob Riggs and Ray Gabelein, took no immediate action. Newly elected President Jim Adsley said the board should discuss the issues with staff before considering changes. “They’re managing the program,” he said.Wendy Alexander said it wouldn’t be fair to make a decision that evening, as many parents in the audience wanted. She estimated it would take six months of gathering input and having meeting to change a board policy.Lisa Bjork, district superintendent, said their will be “continued discussion” with the board and staff.“What I hear is a delay,” said Fran Mulcahy as he and the other concerned parents left the room.The punishmentThe school district’s athletic code describes the following penalties for code violations regarding use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol.FIRST VIOLATION -- Suspension from interscholastic contests for one calendar year. However, the suspension will be reduced to three weeks of interscholastic contests if the student voluntarily (1) admits the code violation; (2) agrees to a drug/alcohol violation and carries out the treatment; (3) participates in eight hours of prescribed community service. Failure to comply will result in the athlete’s suspension for one calendar year.SECOND VIOLATION: The athlete shall be suspended from all athletic competition for 12 months from the date of violation.THIRD VIOLATION: Permanent prohibition from participating in any interscholastic athletic program for the remainder of the athlete’s high school career."

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