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updated: 8/11/2014 5:29 AM

Glenbard parents upset with athlete suspensions after drinking party

Glenbard West parents call punishment over parties with alcohol unfair

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  • A group of Glenbard West parents are expected to attend the District 87 board of education meeting Monday to express concerns about what they feel is an unfair application of the district's athletic code.

       A group of Glenbard West parents are expected to attend the District 87 board of education meeting Monday to express concerns about what they feel is an unfair application of the district's athletic code.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer, 2011

 
 

A group of Glenbard West High School parents plans to attend Monday's District 87 school board meeting to object to what they call an unfair application of the athletic code.

The complaints arose after roughly 30 students were disciplined this summer for attending one or more parties where alcohol was present.

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Tom Kane, a parent of a Glenbard West athlete who is not being disciplined, encouraged other parents to speak up.

"My son was not involved in this particular episode and so our family is not personally affected by the disciplinary action, but there are a number of aspects of this incident and how it was addressed that seem so unfair, overly harsh, inconsistent, and out-of-touch with reality," he wrote in an email.

Kane said suspensions ranged from 20 percent of games to a full season for those disciplined after attending a birthday party hosted in late June by a Glenbard West student. There was alcohol at the party and no parents were present, he said.

The students who were suspended participate in a variety of sports, including volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, dance, football and soccer, Kane said. Many, he added, have appealed the suspensions, without success.

School officials stand by their application of the conduct code.

Glen Ellyn Deputy Police Chief Bill Holmer confirmed that officers responded to a party June 29 where underage drinking by Glenbard West students was suspected.

He said one person was ticketed and a list of attendees was compiled and given to the school by a resource officer. The department has an agreement to share such information with the school.

"Every one of these cases is different," Holmer said in response to parents' concerns the list was incomplete. "We can't control who is leaving as officers are arriving, when officers are there. While I wasn't there, my guess is there are several individuals who were trying to avoid contact with police officers, so they probably left out of different doors."

Another parent, Janet Sweeney, said her son will be suspended from the football team his senior year; he attended the June 29 party and another gathering where alcohol was present.

"We're not saying the kids should be drinking. We're not arguing that the existing policy is there," she said. But, she added, she is upset with the way the assistant principal of athletics, Joe Kain, handled the situation.

Parents say Kain brought students into his office multiple times to try to gather the names of more students who were at the party.

"The punishments are being metered out unfairly and at the discretion of one person," Sweeney said, adding that she felt the school made the students "rat out" their friends, even if they weren't drinking at the party. "We view it as being an unfair way to apply a policy."

Sweeney and some other parents also believe the punishment is harsh for students who were just present at the party and listened to the police to not leave. Others, they say, escaped punishment by running away.

Kain was not available for comment Friday. But Glenbard West Principal Peter Monaghan said the school stands by the district's athletic code. He said it is important for parents, police and educators to work together to let students know about the dangers of underage drinking.

The athletic code reads that it is "in effect 24 hours a day, every day of the calendar year," whether school is in session or the student's sport is in season.

It states that student-athletes shall not "attend, host, plan or otherwise participate" in parties or gatherings where they or others are using, or in possession of, any illegal substance, including alcohol.

Students who violate that section of the code for a first time are given the option to complete an approved rehabilitation program.

If it is successfully completed, they are suspended from 20 percent of scheduled contests for their sport.

If there is a second infraction, the student is suspended for a full season.

Kane said he wants to see the athletic code changed to be "more realistic, less punitive, and a better tool for promoting positive behavior."

"The way it is being used as a threat and bludgeon now, the lesson the kids will take from this incident is either never go anywhere or run if the cops show up so you don't get on 'the list,'" he wrote.

Monaghan said it is "unfortunate" that parents think the discipline was carried out unfairly.

"I know the integrity of our administrative staff," he said. "I believe in them, and the motivation for every single one of them is to do what's right for this school and what's right for the kids."

Monaghan added that it's possible not everyone who was in violation of the code was disciplined, but school officials have to "discipline on what we know."

"If we don't know it, we ask students and we operate on what they give us, if they give us additional information," he said. "We're as comprehensive as we can be."

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