Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Hanover establishes code of ethics

New Hanover County schools has adopted a code of ethics that should be the model for every system in the state.

The document is three pages long but basically can be summed up in one word: Behave.

Every athlete, and every student involved in extra- or co-curricular activities in New Hanover County schools, is required to sign the agreement. So is a parent or custodian.

The code is straightforward:

* Students conduct themselves on and off the field in a way that brings credit to the team, the program and the system.

* There will be no hazing.

* Students are prohibited from using alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

* Students are not to perform criminal acts.

The code is in force year-round on and off the school premises.

The basic notion is that athletes and others involved in co-curricular activities are held to a higher standard than other students.

"We had some incidents last year, and our board of education and our athletics directors said, 'Enough is enough,' " said Joe Miller, the system's athletic director.

Student are held accountable for their actions from when they sign the code until graduation, even when school is not in session.

The code was discussed at parent meetings this fall and close to 3,000 students and their parents accepted it.

The code was tested quickly:

* Cheerleaders from one school drank alcohol after a preseason football scrimmage. One had to go to a hospital. Therefore, 11 cheerleaders were suspended from cheering at the first game.

* Eleven soccer players decided it was a great idea to shove two teammates' heads into a toilet and flush. It was an initiation, also known as the criminal offense of hazing. The offending soccer players were suspended.

The community as a whole probably appreciates the efforts, but part of the reaction was predictable.

Some cheerleaders' parents protested the suspensions because adults were supervising the drinking.

"We had adults giving children alcoholic drinks and thinking that was a good thing, a commendable thing," said an exasperated Miller, the New Hanover athletic director.

Some soccer parents protested that since the initiation took place before the start of school that the punishment was too harsh.

"Hazing is against the law," Miller said. "Hazing is a terrible thing. It has to be stopped. It will be stopped."

Miller knew establishing a code of ethics would be difficult.

"What is happening here is that we are making a stand for what is right. And that is not easy," Miller said. "Right now, there about 22 students who understand that we are going to enforce this policy.

"Hopefully, 3,000 children will look at this example and understand that we are very serious about this."

- Tim Stevens, Raleigh News and Observer


Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding me. The school system was presented a case by the local paper that provided evidence that a player was ineligible due to residency and more or less blew it off. At least the writer and another reporter at the Star News felt that way. jt