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updated: 8/12/2014 9:20 AM

Parents pack Glenbard meeting over athlete suspensions

Many parents say district's shouldn't have suspended kids over parties with alcohol

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  • Video: Public Speaks in District 87

  • Doug Petit -- whose son Jonathan drowned in 2005 at age 16 in a case of underage drinking -- was one of the people who packed a Glenbard High School District 87 board meeting Monday night to comment on the suspensions of athletes over a party where alcohol was served.

       Doug Petit -- whose son Jonathan drowned in 2005 at age 16 in a case of underage drinking -- was one of the people who packed a Glenbard High School District 87 board meeting Monday night to comment on the suspensions of athletes over a party where alcohol was served.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • A large crowd listens during the public participation portion of  a school district 87 board meeting at the Robert C. Stevens Administrative Center in Glen Ellyn on Monday night. Members of the public addressed the issue of several students who were recently disciplined under the district's policy on alcohol.

       A large crowd listens during the public participation portion of a school district 87 board meeting at the Robert C. Stevens Administrative Center in Glen Ellyn on Monday night. Members of the public addressed the issue of several students who were recently disciplined under the district's policy on alcohol.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Glenbard West parent Tom Kane of Glen Ellyn speaks during the public participation portion of  a school district 87 board meeting at the Robert C. Stevens Administrative Center in Glen Ellyn on Monday night. Members of the public addressed the issue of several students who were recently disciplined under the district's policy on alcohol. Kane argued against the district policy.

       Glenbard West parent Tom Kane of Glen Ellyn speaks during the public participation portion of a school district 87 board meeting at the Robert C. Stevens Administrative Center in Glen Ellyn on Monday night. Members of the public addressed the issue of several students who were recently disciplined under the district's policy on alcohol. Kane argued against the district policy.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
By Safiya Merchant
smerchant@dailyherald.com

Teens and adults filled the room at Monday's District 87 board meeting, forcing some to stand and others to linger outside the doorway.

And they didn't all agree that Glenbard West High School's suspensions of athletes from their seasons after one or more parties where alcohol was served was a bad move.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, and many did indeed speak out against what they called an unfair and harsh application of the district's Athletic Code.

But some came to the event unopposed to the code. Patricia Stirb, a Glenbard West High School volleyball player and senior student liasion for the school board, said three of her teammates have been suspended. She found out about the suspensions in July.

"I was heavily disappointed not only by their suspension but also by their poor decision-making choices," Stirb said. "As athletes it is our duty to represent our team, coach, school, district and community. It should be self-evident that the moment we put on a Glenbard West jersey we are representing the school and should therefore act as role models. Thus, we should abide by the Glenbard District Athletic Code."

The parental outcry came in light of the school's recent suspensions from athletic seasons for about 30 student-athletes who attended one or more parties.

Connor Loftus, a former Glenbard West student-athlete, said the code does not allow student-leaders to set an example for others, lest they also be punished. He said he had to sacrifice hanging out with a majority of his friends on many occasions during the latter half of his high school career because they participated in underage drinking.

"I was forced to look out for myself instead of being out amongst my peers, where I could have taken a leadership role and stepped in to defuse the potentially dangerous situations that often arise as a result of binge drinking," Loftus said.

Loftus' father, Brian, also spoke at the meeting. He said another son, a student-athlete who attends Glenbard West, was suspended for 20 percent of his season as a result of attending a June party.

Loftus said when his son met with officials and finished his statement, what transpired seemed as if the punishment was predetermined.

"I think the code is written pretty well, but when I read the code and re-read the code, I see there's room for the administration to do the right thing and to really consider what the incident was, what the possible violation was, and not automatically jump to what the harsh conclusion would be," Brian Loftus said.

The students received suspensions ranging from 20 percent to a full season of games, according to parts of a leaked email written by Glenbard West parent Tom Kane, whose family was not affected by the incident.

The suspended students participate in a wide variety of sports, including volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, dance, football and soccer.

The suspensions were doled out to kids who attended the June birthday party hosted by a West student, where no parents were present.

According to the email, former West students showed up at the party with the alcohol. When police arrived, some youths left the party, and others with cars who passed a breath test were allowed to go home; the rest had their names taken by officers.

Police then provided the names to school officials, who handed down the suspensions.

School officials are standing by their actions.

Glenbard West Principal Peter Monaghan last week defended the school's enforcement procedures.

"I know the integrity of our administrative staff," he told the Daily Herald on Friday. "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 also acknowledged it's possible not everyone who was in violation of the code was disciplined, but school officials have to "discipline on what we know."

At Monday's meeting, many parents came to speak their minds on the Athletic Code.

Kane has an incoming senior at Glenbard West who will be playing a sport at West this fall. His family was not affected but he still has problems with the code.

Even if families at the meeting were not affected, Kane said, "... we all share the same concern that the response to what were deemed to be Athletic Code violations were overly harsh, punitive, and may cause more harm than good and, in fact, unintentionally encourages the types of behavior the code was intended to address."

Although he provided some background information on the code before public comment began, Superintendent David Larson also gave closing remarks.

In his remarks, Larson said the Athletic Code is just a part of the puzzle to support students, which also includes events and health curriculum.

Larson added, "We don't make decisions in a reactionary way; we don't make decisions from political pressure or emotional pressure."

But for Doug Petit, the issue means more to him than just a policy.

Petit's 16-year-old son, a Glenbard North High School athlete, died in 2005. After going to a party and never coming home, he was later found in a retention pond. He had been heavily intoxicated before he passed.

Petit said he hopes the board "sticks with" the decision regarding the Athletic Code.

He said in an interview he doesn't want them to move backwards on this issue.

"People just seemed to really love him and care about him and it was really shown when we stood in that line at his funeral and we stood up for over 10 hours straight as the entire community came out," Petit said. "I had no idea my son impacted that many people. He was beautiful. And I miss him a lot."

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