I am writing this letter in response to another letter to the editor that was recently published in the Baldwin City Signal. In the letter I am responding to, Marilyn Hanny voiced her opinion about the drug/alcohol problem that is facing the Baldwin City school district. While I appreciate her concern and willingness to provide some possible solutions to this extremely serious problem, I was shocked by some of her statements.
First of all, Ms. Hanny attacks the integrity of the coaches at Baldwin High School. She states that coaches have ignored drug and alcohol use by athletes simply because that athlete played an influential role on his/her respective team. I would like to know where she got her information, because it simply is not true. Within the past year, a starter on the football team was dismissed from the team for having tobacco in class. A starter on the basketball team was dismissed for his drug use during the latter part of the season and missed both the sub-state and state basketball tournaments. It doesn't sound like those athletes received any preferential treatment to me. Does it sound that way to you?
Ms. Hanny voiced her concern that punishments for students caught using drugs or alcohol are inconsistent. All athletes at Baldwin High School are required to sign a drug/alcohol policy before competing in a BHS sponsored event. This policy sets the standard of punishment that will be followed should a student be caught using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. These punishments are consistent for the number of violations committed by an individual student. Any parent of a Baldwin High School student should know this, because the drug/alcohol policy requires a parent's signature before it is considered to be valid. The policy is enforced based on either the student being arrested or being caught by a school district employee. Ms. Hanny's suggestion that players of "lesser importance" may be dismissed from the team based on "hear-say" holds no water. "Hear-say" does not hold up in court, and it doesn't hold up in regards to the BHS drug/alcohol policy either.
If there seem to be inconsistencies in punishment, it is for one simple reason. The drug/alcohol policy gives each individual coach to go "above and beyond" the punishment that is handed out by the school. I do not know of a single coach in the district that does not take
advantage of this freedom. The additional punishment is determined by the coach, and may range from extra conditioning to dismissal from the team. I don't believe that any coach has a predetermined punishment. Every situation is handled individually, depending on the severity of the infraction and other surrounding circumstances.
I would also like to discuss some of the suggestions that Ms. Hanny offered as to how the problem can be solved. Her first suggestion was to have a competitive athletic program that is a separate entity from the school system. These programs already exist. They are called AAU and Sport 2 Sport leagues. While it may seem like it would be harder for coaches to ignore problems, this is simply not the case. It is actually easier. The organizations that govern these programs don't have drug/alcohol policies for their athletes. That leaves every decision up to the individual coach. Many of these coaches have a "win at all cost" attitude, and would not dismiss a player from the team due to drug use. Recent investigations into an AAU coach in the Kansas City Area (while the problems were of a financial matter) exemplify the lack of control that these organizations have.
I was also shocked by Ms. Hanny's suggestion that the school board should demand the hiring of Catholic nuns. There are two major problems with this suggestion. First of all, USD 348 is an equal opportunity employer. Being an EOE, it is illegal to hire (or not to hire) an individual based on his/her sex, race, religion, etc. The school district would be setting itself up for a huge lawsuit. Secondly, the constitution calls for the separation of church and state. Strictly hiring Catholic nuns simply defies this law. Once again, there would be major legal implications if USD 348 pursued this option. If you feel that having your son/daughter being taught by a Catholic nun will make him/her a better person, by all means, send them to a private school. That is your right as a parent.
As for Ms. Hanny's third suggestion, I do agree that the police are sometimes too easy on the kids. Maybe the risk of getting arrested would curb some of the drug/alcohol use. Of course, the risk of being arrested is present now, and the kids ignore it. Increased law
enforcement may or may not work. Who knows?
I wish that I knew why drug/alcohol use is so prevalent at Baldwin High School, but I don't. I wish that I had the perfect solution and could end this shocking trend, but I don't. I do know that the problem has nothing to do with the integrity of the administration and coaches within the Baldwin School District. They are doing everything within their power to eliminate this problem.
Gary G. Stevanus, ATC-R
Head Athletic Trainer
Baldwin High School