Since the start of the month, middle school students interested in cheering for their classmates at after school sporting events have been turned away at the door, thanks to a new policy requiring they be accompanied by an adult.
“This is the first time I’ve done this since I’ve been here,” middle school Principal Karen Bukowski said of the policy. “It will probably go through the boys’ volleyball season.”
On March 2, Bukowski sent a memo to parents stipulating that an adult must show up with their child for indoor sporting events. The kids must also sit with that adult for the duration of the event, according to the memo. The boys’ volleyball season will be wrapping up in mid-May, Bukowski said.
The problem, according to district officials, is that students appear to be taking a greater interest in using foul language, making a mess and generally being disruptive than they are in the athletics taking place on the floor. Referees have had to stop games and ask that students not walk across the gym floor or heckle their classmates, Bukowski said.
“This action is being taken due to an increase in behavior incidents; such as students interfering with the flow of the game, bringing inappropriate materials to games which can jeopardize the safety of others, leaving excessive litter in the bleachers, and using inappropriate language,” Bukowski stated in her March 2 letter to parents.
Bukowski declined to specify what “inappropriate materials” posed a safety threat.
But Bob Dorniker, the father of a middle school student, said the policy is a bad idea and discourages kids from taking an interest in the school. Dorniker raised the issue at a board of education meeting earlier this month and argued that parents can’t always get off work to attend afternoon sporting events.
The bigger picture, Dorniker said, is the policy essentially sweeps disciplinary problems under the rug, cutting off any meaningful discussion with parents. He also took issue with Bukowski’s practice of locking students out of certain bathrooms at the middle school during normal school hours.
“If this community is going to support the school system, you’ve got to stop hiding these things,” Dorniker said.
Superintendent Randolph Tinder supported Bukowski’s policy. Too often, Tinder said, parents abuse the district’s after school events and force educators to play the role of baby sitter.
According to Bukowski, teachers are sometimes stuck at the school into the early evening waiting for parents to pick up their kids after sporting events. By mandating that the students attend with an adult, that problem is eliminated, Bukowski said.
“We were waiting 45 minutes for kids to get picked up afterwards,” Bukowski said.
Since putting the policy in place, Bukowski said the disruptive behavior has dropped off and that parents have thanked the school for cracking down.