Monday, September 18, 2006

MCPS allows indicted armed robbers to play high school football

Here's a character development and school safety story for you: MCPS is allowing thugs indicted for armed robbery to play for other county public schools.

Whitman High School wouldn't let the three troublemaking students return to school this fall. But MCPS said they could go attend other public schools - and represent them in sports.

The decision is a "disgrace," Potomac resident Barry P. Smith writes in the Almanac.

Though the athletes must be treated as innocent until proven guilty, the facts presented by county prosecutors show that the county school system has a responsibility to protect the other kids. Furthermore, one of the athletes admits he did the crime but says in his own defense that the gun was a replica that couldn't fire.

Whitman Principal Alan Goodwin tried to expel the student, but couldn't. Four of the five Wheaton students involved in the crime have been sent to other Montgomery County Public Schools; one now plays football for Rockville.

Smith argues, "responsible public officials are paid every day to make decisions based on the 'best available information.' According to its own Web site, 'MCPS is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff. Safety and security of our schools is everyone's concern.'"

"It is hard to imagine that MCPS educators will ever get a better opportunity to establish the minimum standards of conduct for their students," says Smith. "One of the stated missions of the MCPS athletic program 'is to teach and reinforce values in student-athletes as they relate to wholesome competition, good sportsmanship and fair play.' Allowing students who are under indictments for serious offenses to compete is hardly a way to reinforce 'wholesome competition.'"

"Several MCPS staff who have been involved in handling this incident have turned in subpar performances (the list is growing) and many people in the community have taken notice."

"Allowing the students to attend other schools while the judicial proceedings continue would appear to be reasonable action as long as the legitimate safety and security concerns of the staff and parents of those schools can be heard and addressed," in Smith's words. "But the MCPS decision to allow them to play football at their new schools is outrageous and unacceptable."