Documents encourage responsibility for HRV athletic department

August 27

After extensive, and necessary, study and discussion the administrators at Hood River Valley High School have crafted two long-awaited documents that all student athletes, musicians, actors, and club members will need to study and heed: revised, tighter activities and athletic contracts which clearly spell out the academic and behavioral expectations, and consequences, for students participating in extracurricular activities.

Under the contracts, presented to the Hood River County School Board last week, an athlete or other student found to have used alcohol, tobacco or other drugs will face suspension upon first offense, and be ineligible to compete or participate in the given program for two weeks. For second offense, the student will be suspended from participating in any sport or activity for six months, and must agree to random drug-alcohol testing at parent’s expense while participating for the remainder of high school athletics or activities, “if reasonable suspicion exists.”

“A violation of the district discipline policy is defined as use or possession of tobacco, alcohol and or illegal substances on school property or at any school related event,” states the contract.

School officials made it plain to the school board it was not their role to police the students around the clock.

“At some point the parents have to work with their kids,” co-principal Martha Capovilla said. Administrators will follow up on information but not seek it out, if it has reason to believe a student is in violation.

It’s not Big Brother, nor is it laissez-faire: Capovilla is right about parents’ responsibility. Any such policy is worthless without parental support, making it prudent to design it so that parents have to pay attention to their kids’ behavior. Of course, a policy for students involved in extracurricular programs is just one part of meeting the difficult challenge of engaging parents in their kids’ lives.

Martha Capovilla called them “as realistic as we can be and as equitable as we can be.” The policies were presented to the school board for initial review and discussion known as “first reading,” and have not been formally adopted, but school board members lauded the policies for adequately addressing the critical element of personal responsibility, and indeed they do hold the student accountable.

Drug use by teenagers is not a problem that will go away soon, but it will be helpful at the high school to give a solid, documented set of expectations to the hundreds of students who participate in activities and athletics.

The documents are fairly detailed, setting out academic probation, behavior standards, attendance requirements, and in the case of athletes, appearance. (Oddly, the activities contract has no section specifically relating to appearance, but the athletics contract requires students to “represent the school in an acceptable manner, including physical appearance and dress,” and provides for suspension in case of noncompliance.)

It is interesting to compare the 2003 contract with its counterpart in the 1923 “school information circular” provided to high school students and published on Aug. 24, 1923:

“Athletics are a means toward an end, physical welfare, and not an end in themselves,” school officials wrote. “Students will not be encouraged to come to school for athletics alone. Those who go in for athletics should be prepared to submit cheerfully to the regulations of the coach and to cooperate with his team-mates in building up strong morale within the teams. Regular hours, plenty of sleep, and conscientious care of the body are expected of all our athletes. If you are not prepared to keep up your studies and to train yourself for true sportsmanship, you have no right to expect a place on the squads.”

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