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Thursday, October 25, 2007

What To Make of This Latest Incident?

So back in September 5 members of the Garfield football team allegedly engaged in not one but two muggings (and I say mugging and not robbery because they allegedly assaulted both victims). Some of the boys were starters on the team. They were caught because a couple of people saw the second robbery and reported their license plate number. When apprehended (on the football field), most confessed (this is according to an article in the PI).

Now I had heard about it when it happened and assumed that the school had dealt with them in some manner (off the team?suspended from school?). Watching the news last night, there's Ted Howard, the principal, saying they were benched for 2 games and "need our support".

Hello?

Football players get benched for mouthing off at the coach or missing practice, not assaulting and robbing people. And what about the kids at school? Would you feel your student is safe at school with these guys around? I wouldn't.

Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty but they did confess to the police (that could change once they are charged and put in a plea. The justice system will take care of whatever punishment they may get if convicted. And no, don't give up on them. But, please, don't allow them to believe they can act in an aggressive manner off the field and out of school with no real consequences at school.

Again, what is the district's policy on safety and security issues? Violent crime needs oversight by the district and not just at the school level.

34 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

So here's an interesting situation.

I'm thinking of the case of Morse v. Frederick in which a student at a high school in Juneau, Alaska was suspended for displaying a sign - off of school grounds - which read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as the Olympic Torch relay went past.

If a student expressed themselves outside of school, say with a controversial web site or a public protest, should the student face any response from the school? Or would we say that the school has no authority to regulate students' actions outside of the school?

If the school has no authority to punish students for their alleged misdeeds off campus, then that's that. Of course, once the students are convicted, and the presumption of innocence is gone, I think it appropriate for them to be excluded from representing the school in sports or other events.

There is nothing in the WIAA Eligibility requirements that precludes students with felony convictions from participation in interscholastic athletics.

Oddly, a student can be made ineligible for "disruptive behavior during practice and/or contests", or for "committing and/or aiding or abetting in the commission of any physical abuse
or attack upon any person associated with athletic practices or contests" but it appears to be okay to attack people away from the football field.

The KINGCO Handbook includes a Code of Ethics which has these elements:
"It is the duty of all concerned with school athletics:

1. To emphasize the proper ideals of sportsmanship, ethical conduct and fair play.
2. To eliminate all possibilities which tend to destroy the best values of the game.
8. To encourage leadership, use of initiative, and good judgment by the players on the team."

The KINGCO Handbook includes this expectation for student participants: "Accept seriously the responsibility and privilege of representing school and community: display
positive public action at all times."

The METRO league bylaws include this, from a section titled Student Responsibilities:
"Participants are required to conform to the rules and regulations of their school, school district, the Metropolitan League, and the WIAA, and to conduct themselves in a safe and sporting manner. Violators are subject to probation or suspension as may be applied by the school, school district, League or the WIAA."


The District's handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities reads:

"All students will be subject to the policies, rules and regulations of Seattle Public Schools. Students will be disciplined if they fail to comply with any of the written rules and regulations while at school, on school grounds, on School District-sponsored transportation, or at any school-sponsored event. Students will also be disciplined if they fail to comply with any of the written rules and regulations in any other setting having a real and substantial relationship to the operation of Seattle Public Schools, including, but not limited to, the preservation of the health and safety of students and employees and the preservation of an educational process which is conducive to learning. Disciplinary action can include such things as losing the privilege of attending District-sponsored activities, losing the privilege of riding District-sponsored transportation, or suspension or expulsion."

I think it might be a stretch to say that the muggings have a real and substantial relationship to the operation of Seattle Public Schools, but Ted Howard, Carla Santorno, or Dr. Goodloe-Johnson could try it.

The District has, through its own rules, done a nice job of preventing itself from punishing students for actions taken off school grounds and away from school events.

Of course, the coach can decide not to play them and that decision is not subject to appeal by anyone.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the school should have authority over the discipline of a student when the student is out of school....as long as the offense the student participated in is not illegal. In other words voicing ones political views, controversial website, public protest, or even "Bong Hits for Jesus" (as it is obviously inappropriate but not illegal) should not be the business of the school.

However, if a student commits an illegal act, and especially an illegal violent act, that student should be appropriately disciplined by the law, their parents, and the school too. The student who mugged people after school is an obvious danger to the community, and will have a criminal record. At the least the school should revoke that child's athletic priviledges and kick him off of the football team, and I would encourage them to expel the student.

Sadly, when we look at many of our pro ball players (our students mentors), and see what they are getting away with, it is obvious how our students come to the conclusion that it's OK to mug, rape and assault people. And take drugs.

Anonymous said...

These students have yet to be convicted. The issue happened off campus. If the school tried to take action against them, the words consitutional violation come to mind. I bet they all of defense attorneys, who probably made sure that the district was well aware of thier client's rights.

Schools are not criminal justice systems. I find it ridiculously ironic that this some blogers here first slammed the district for its principals handling in-school issues by school discpline and are now getting on the district for not getting in the wiegh of the criminal justice system for events that occured outside of school. You can't have it both ways, and frankly either extreme is ridiculous. You can't have principals calling 911 for everything, and SPS has no business trying to be both the police, judge, and jury in criminal matters that happen off campus.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 8:48, the boys confessed to the crimes. I think mugging/assaulting two people is grounds for being kicked off of the football team. For goodness sakes, getting a D gets you kicked off the team, I would think an assault should at least have the same penalty as getting a D on your report card.

Continue to protect, and turn the other cheek. You will reap what you sew. It's time to get tough and let our youth know that we will not put up with violent crime. I hope they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and then ,maybe the school and all of the other students at Garfield won't have to deal with the little thugs.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't know which bloggers are trying to have it both ways.

The schools should allow the criminal justice system deal with crimes - whether they are committed on campus or off.

The students, whether they confessed or not, have not been found guilty by a Court and must be granted the presumption of innocence.

If the principal, the Athletic Director, the District Director of Athletics, the Superintendent, or a WIAA official decided to declare the students ineligible they would have to be able to name their authority and reason for doing so. The best I could find was the KINGCO code of ethics.

The coach, however, could kick them off the team for any reason he chooses or no reason at all. I'm pretty sure that coaches set varsity rosters at their sole discretion and without appeal.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Apparently, it is true the district has no legal grounds to suspend them. But the coach sent a terrible message by not kicking them off the team (indeed 3 of them played in the last game of their losing season, making them even less necessary). That's where the district athletic director should have stepped in.

I would be nervous if I were a parent of a Garfield student.

Charlie Mas said...

This is one of those situations where there are a bunch of folks like us who have only spotty information about the situation are second-guessing the folks who have more information and have it first-hand.

The coach DID suspend the players for two games. So he did punish them for the dishonor they brought on themselves, the program and the school. The coach, based on his deeper first-hand knowledge of the details of the situation, believes that to be the appropriate punishment. In the paper he was quoted speaking of the players' remorse and the sentiment of the team.

Let's remember the facts of the case.

There were six boys in the car on each day (September 10 and September 12). In each case only three of the boys got out of the car. This means that at least one of the four players was not directly involved in the assaults or the robbery. It is possible that more than one of the players stayed in the car.

One victim was hit in the first instance. From the news report, it seemed that one person threw one punch. Nothing was stolen in that event.

In the second event there was an assualt and a messenger bag was stolen. The bag contained cash, an iPod, and a laptop.

When confronted by the police (Good Work SPD!), the players confessed their involvement and stolen items and cash were returned to the victim.

The players have, apparently, confessed their involvement and, at least to their coach and team, expressed remorse.

I think there is a lot of room here for the players to be guilty of little more than misplaced loyalty to their friends. I've been a teen-aged boy; I know that I did not report every terrible thing that my friends did - some of them criminal - to the proper authorities.

I think the District should consider the need to develop some sort of policy about this - apparently a couple of neighboring districts have such policies. But I'm also ready to give the coach the benefit of the doubt on his judgement. He knew the details and he assessed the penalty that he believed to be appropriate. I question the wisdom of second-guessing that decision with our limited knowledge of the students and the case.

Anonymous said...

Seattle has become so "nice" and so "inclusive" that we can not discipline children anymore. We can not even make or uphold rules in a clear or consistent manner. It is frustrating to say the least. To think that members of a football team could assault and mug people, get arrested and then come back to school and play football is an outrage.

Of course we couldn't bench these boys because then the coach and the school would be racist. Institutionalized racists. Then there would be more black kids in the "discipline gap" and we wouldn't want that. Better to just let it go. Sweep it under the carpet. Yuk.

Outrageous.

Anonymous said...

How can you trivialize these boys actions Charlie??? I am truly perplexed at how far apart opinions can be. My opinion could not be further from your trivialization. I believe that children should be held accountable for their actions. I believe that when you make bad choices, bad things will happen to you. This is how children learn lessons. Not from people trivializing and making excuses for bad behavior.

These quotes from Charlie are unbelievable.

"At least one of the four players did not get out of the car"

How does this make the situation any better? Some boys did get out of the car and confessed to what they did. One boy staying behind does not in any way make less the offensive the actions of the group.

"One victim was hit in the first instance, but nothing was stolen"

Oh, OK, just a punch. Whew, nothing stolen. Good boys. Stealing is wrong.



"When confronted the players confessed and the victims were given back their bag, ipod and laptop"

Whew, again. That was close. Could have lost his items, but turns out it was only an ASSAULT. Good job SPD.

"The players have expressed their remorse to their coaches and their team"

Have they expressed their remorse to the victims? To the rest of the school? To the tax payers that pay the police? How have they expressed their remorse to their coach and team? What is their punishment? Oh, I forgot, benched for two games.

"I've been a teen-aged boy; I know that I did not report every terrible thing that my friends did some of them criminal - to the proper authorities."

We're not talking about reporting an incident. We are talking about instigating and participating in a violent criminal incident.

Poor dears, they have suffered enough. Darling boys.

Charlie, you have trivialized these boys actions in a way that is surreal to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how you all feel about what happens in classrooms. When a student mouths off at a teacher, the teacher has to decide how to proceed. Should the student be sent from the room? See a counselor? Have detention after school? Parent conference? Meet with the principal or assistant principal? When should it kick in? After 3 offenses? 4? Only if each escalated?

In almost every situation as a teacher that I have ever been involved with, parents will side with their child against the teacher and claim all discipline or management was unfair or too severe.

Parents, please accept your role in why the "system" sometimes hesitates. For the most part, you will fight it tooth and nail. Teachers walk away from many of those kinds of conferences broken and wondering why they try. And with the advent of the ease of email, they can also be berated in print as well as in person.

Criminal acts should be handled by the police in all cases. But what to do about behavior that, while not rising to a "criminal" level, effects the functioning of a classroom and a school?

Roy Smith said...

In almost every situation as a teacher that I have ever been involved with, parents will side with their child against the teacher and claim all discipline or management was unfair or too severe.

I have witnessed this firsthand, and it summarizes in a nutshell is why I never seriously considered teaching as a career. I could have lived with the low pay that a teaching career entails, but that low pay is not worth it when it is combined with high levels of disrespect.

Roy Smith said...

melissa westbrook writes: Would you feel your student is safe at school with these guys around?

I would be nervous if I were a parent of a Garfield student.


What do you suggest would be an appropriate course of action for either the school district or the principal in this case?

I can't see how anything could be done prior to there being a conviction in a court, and even then it is not at all clear that the schools have jurisdiction to do anything aside from removing them from extra-curricular activities, which would probably do nothing to make nervous parents less nervous.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't believe that I trivialized anything.

The anonymous commentor wrote:

"Some boys did get out of the car and confessed to what they did. One boy staying behind does not in any way make less the offensive the actions of the group."

It is entirely possible that all three of the boys who remained in the car were three of the four who are on the team. Whoever stayed in the car did not directly participate in any crime other than associating with the muggers and not reporting them to the police.

I don't mean to trivialize what they did, but I do not equate sitting in a car with committing a robbery. Do you? Are you suggesting that the boys who sat in the car and did not participate in the assaults are equally culpable? What do you expect them to do? Call 9-1-1 and report their friends? Is that a reasonable expectation? As a teenager, did you report your friends when they broke the law? When they shoplifted? When they drank beer or smoked dope?

Of course, it is also possible that all three who got out of the car and committed the crimes were team members. We don't know.

The coach knows. The parents know. The people with the first hand information and the authority to mete out punishment are the ones who know. Are they too soft on the players? Maybe. Again, we don't know. We don't have the information we need to make any such determination.

That's what I was saying.

I'm NOT saying that muggers should be allowed to play high school football. I'm NOT saying that this is the decision that I would make if I were coach or parent, or even principal.

You write as if you know what happened, but you don't.

It is absurd that you would interpret the statement of fact that nothing was stolen in the first case as some sort of complement to the boys. That's sick.

"Have they expressed their remorse to the victims?"


I don't know and neither do you. Perhaps they have.

"To the rest of the school?"

Again, I don't know and I daresay that you don't know either.

"To the tax payers that pay the police?"

Is this a reasonable expectation?

"How have they expressed their remorse to their coach and team?"

I don't know and neither do you. That's just my point.

I don't think that you should assume that they are in line for no more punishment than being benched for two games. They are facing criminal charges. If found guilty, I suspect they will get some additional punishment. Don't you?

The justice system is how people are punished for crimes. If they committed crimes, then the justice system will punish them. I suspect their parents have punished them as well, as has the coach.

What grounds do you have for second-guessing that punishment when you have no knowledge of the details?

"We're not talking about reporting an incident. We are talking about instigating and participating in a violent criminal incident."

You don't know that. In fact, in at least one case, and probably more, you're wrong. The boys who stayed in the car ARE only guilty of not reporting the incident. They didn't instigate or participate in any violent acts. Even among the boys who got out of the car, only one committed a violent act in the first case and it's unclear how many participated in the second case.

"Poor dears, they have suffered enough. Darling boys."

No one has said this but you. They are facing criminal charges. Try to keep that in mind. The Court will mete out their punishment for their crimes, if any. It's not YOUR job. It's not the school's job, either.

"Charlie, you have trivialized these boys actions in a way that is surreal to me."

What I find surreal is your warped interpretation of what I wrote. It appears that you have made up this little drama in your head based on a sketch of the facts. What I wrote is that WE DON'T KNOW THE FACTS. But the coach knows the facts. The parents know the facts.

Personally, I don't think that the boys who stayed in the car should be punished as severely as those who got out. And I don't think those who got out of the car and did not commit violence should be punished as severely as those who did. I think the law may see it differently and so might you. If so, then say that, but don't try to put words in my mouth and don't twist the ones I wrote.

Anonymous said...

"What I wrote is that WE DON'T KNOW THE FACTS. But the coach knows the facts. The parents know the facts."

For someone who doesn't know the facts, you sure laid them out very clearly in your post of 9:48

Also, any consequences that I spoke of was for the boys who committed the mugging/assault. Why and where did you come up with the idea that I thought boys who sat in a car should face consequences? Take a breath.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You're right; it wouldn't make parents less nervous if they got kicked off the team. But how about some consequences right now? How about sending a signal to the team and the school community that you play with fire, with the very things that matter to you in your school life, if you choose to break the law.

Charlie and I are very far apart on this issue so I won't even try to write about his take on it. He is right about us not having all the facts. For me to make the assertion that I believe they should have been taken immediately off the team, I don't need to know if they feel remorse, have shown remorse or if their parents have punished them personally.

But see, if you don't bear down on kids on a troubled road - hard and immediately- well, teenagers are no fools. Let's just keep in mind; if they had knocked one of their victims to the ground and accidentally killed him, at their ages, they would be charged as adults. They are luckily nothing serious happened(beyond scaring the living daylights out of two people). Things could be a lot worse for them than getting benched from a couple of games. And, depending on the charges, it could be.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, what do you think your daughter have done if she was in the car with several friends and several of them got out of the car and assaulted and robbed someone? Just curious.

I can't imagine my son (teenager) in that situation. I know his friends, and while they can get into mischief once in awhile, they are not out mugging or assaulting anyone. That is outrageous and should be handled with the severity it deserves.

Charlie Mas said...

This almost reads like a logic puzzle.

We know that there were six boys in the car.

We know that four of the boys in the car were memmbers of the football team at Garfield.

We know that the driver was not one of the team members.

We know that three of the boys got out of the car.

We know that at least one of the boys who got out of the car committed assault. The press reports were unclear as to whether more than one of the boys committed assault.

We know that three of the boys stayed in the car and are guilty of something other than assault.

We do not know, however, which boys got out of the car and which stayed in the car. Nor do we know to what extent the boys who got out of the car actively participated in the assault.

So, if we insist on punishing the football players, as the anonymous commenter did, then we are insisting on punishing at least one and possibly as many as three boys who stayed in the car. Moreover, even if a player got out of the car, he may or may not have actively participated in the assaults.

Anonymous wrote: "Also, any consequences that I spoke of was for the boys who committed the mugging/assault. Why and where did you come up with the idea that I thought boys who sat in a car should face consequences? Take a breath."

You made no such distinction in your post. That is the distinction that I was making in mine. A distinction that you rejected.

"We're not talking about reporting an incident. We are talking about instigating and participating in a violent criminal incident."

I'm not worked up, so I don't need to "take a breath". I have not indulged in hyperbole or flights of rhetoric. I laid out the facts plainly - the scant facts as they have been reported in the press. Perhaps it is someone else who should "take a breath".

For the anonymous commenter who asked about my daughter, I must admit that I just don't know. I can't imagine my daughter, 13, being in such a situation with her friends. I would think that we would contact her friends' families and, with them, see to it that the victims were made whole and appropriate apologies and amends were made.

SPS parent said...

If my child was involved in a mugging/assault (and yes, even if he just sat in the car), there would be substantial consequences for him at home. Beginning with me taking him off of the football team myself, grounding him, having him apologize to the victims and their families, apologize to the coach and principal for disgracing the school and team, and I would work with a community organization to arrange some community servece work. And,anything else that I might find appropriate at home. In other words I would make him think long and seriously about the gravity of what he had done.

I would also seriously think about changing schools, to remove him from the peer group that was involved in the event.

If you don't take harsh and swift action, these kids will go down a bad road. As Melissa points out, they are lucky that nothing worse happened to the victim. As she said if the victim fell and died as a result, these kids would have been charged as adults. Their lives would be ruined. They deserve intervention and harsh consequences now, in hopes that they will learn and change their behavior.

Anonymous said...

One time a child squirted juice on my son while on the school bus. My son retaliated by squirting juice back on the child. The child was angered and proceeded to beat my son up, steal his clarinet and hit him with it, and give him a black eye.

They were BOTH suspended from school. The prinicpal's reasoning? My son, though not the instigator, and not the aggressor, could have avoided the situation by not squirting the juice back. He could have asked the boy to stop, he could have told the bus driver, he could have moved to another seat and removed himself from the situation. By squirting the juice back he escalated the situation.

Though I would have liked to see the aggressor punished more severely than my child, I agreed with the principal. They both had a lesson (though different ones), to learn from the incident.

My son learned his lesson. He would not have learned a lesson if the principal did not address his part in the incident.

In the Garfield incident, I think the boy driving the car, and the boys sitting in the car should be subject to consequences as well. Maybe not as severe a consequence as the perpetrator, but something strong enough to teach a good lesson.

The law holds you accountable. If you assist in a murder, even if you don't pull the trigger, you face the consequences. So should the boys that were in the car and driving. They chose to be there. They chose not to tell the authorities. They made their bed, now they have to lie in it.

Anonymous said...

I have two words to add to the conversation:


Michael Vick

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you can dissect the logic puzzle all you want to. I have a completely different view than you. All of the boys were all involved. Each one of them. The one that drove and stopped the car for the assault to take place was involved. He didn't just stop for the first assault, he stopped for the second one two. So there was no element of surprise there. The boys who sat in the car and watched the assaults and did nothing to stop them are guilty too. They chose not to remove themselves from the situation, and stayed in the car for not one, but two, assaults. They did not notify the authorities.

Sometimes, I have to put myself in a situation to feel the gravity of it. What if it were your daughter Charlie, that was the victim? What if these boys murdered her? Would you still think the driver to be innocent? How about the boys who sat in the car and watched? How would you feel when you faced them in a courtroom?

Anonymous said...

For those of you stuck on whether vehicle occupants can be held criminally accountable for a co-passenger's actions:


RCW 9A.08.020
Liability for conduct of another -- Complicity.
(1) A person is guilty of a crime if it is committed by the conduct of another person for which he is legally accountable.

(2) A person is legally accountable for the conduct of another person when:

(a) Acting with the kind of culpability that is sufficient for the commission of the crime, he causes an innocent or irresponsible person to engage in such conduct; or

(b) He is made accountable for the conduct of such other person by this title or by the law defining the crime; or

(c) He is an accomplice of such other person in the commission of the crime.

(3) A person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of a crime if:

(a) With knowledge that it will promote or facilitate the commission of the crime, he

(i) solicits, commands, encourages, or requests such other person to commit it; or

(ii) aids or agrees to aid such other person in planning or committing it; or

(b) His conduct is expressly declared by law to establish his complicity.

(4) A person who is legally incapable of committing a particular crime himself may be guilty thereof if it is committed by the conduct of another person for which he is legally accountable, unless such liability is inconsistent with the purpose of the provision establishing his incapacity.

(5) Unless otherwise provided by this title or by the law defining the crime, a person is not an accomplice in a crime committed by another person if:

(a) He is a victim of that crime; or

(b) He terminates his complicity prior to the commission of the crime, and either gives timely warning to the law enforcement authorities or otherwise makes a good faith effort to prevent the commission of the crime.

(6) A person legally accountable for the conduct of another person may be convicted on proof of the commission of the crime and of his complicity therein, though the person claimed to have committed the crime has not been prosecuted or convicted or has been convicted of a different crime or degree of crime or has an immunity to prosecution or conviction or has been acquitted.

RCW 9A.28.040
Criminal conspiracy.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal conspiracy when, with intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed, he or she agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct, and any one of them takes a substantial step in pursuance of such agreement.

(2) It shall not be a defense to criminal conspiracy that the person or persons with whom the accused is alleged to have conspired:

(a) Has not been prosecuted or convicted; or

(b) Has been convicted of a different offense; or

(c) Is not amenable to justice; or

(d) Has been acquitted; or

(e) Lacked the capacity to commit an offense; or

(f) Is a law enforcement officer or other government agent who did not intend that a crime be committed.

(3) Criminal conspiracy is a:

(a) Class A felony when an object of the conspiratorial agreement is murder in the first degree;

(b) Class B felony when an object of the conspiratorial agreement is a class A felony other than murder in the first degree;

(c) Class C felony when an object of the conspiratorial agreement is a class B felony;

(d) Gross misdemeanor when an object of the conspiratorial agreement is a class C felony;

(e) Misdemeanor when an object of the conspiratorial agreement is a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor.
[1997 c 17 § 1; 1975 1st ex.s. c 260 § 9A.28.040.]

Anonymous said...

Thank you to the above poster for explaining the law in these situations. I am no lawyer, and interpreting the law can be tricky. And, of course we don't have the facts in the case. But if you go on what has been reported, it appears to me that the driver and boys sitting in the car are guilty of complicity, being an accomplice, and criminal conspiracy. I hope they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I wish the school could be involved in consequences and restrictions for the boys while they are on school time. That is, if they don't wind up in jail, where school won't be a factor anymore.

Anonymous said...

While we are getting all laweyery, let's start with "innocent until proven guilty," shall we?

I rarely agree with Charlie, but there is a whole lot of assumptions being made based upon the oh so reliable press accounts.

Anonymous said...

They confessed

Anonymous said...

I might have to think about moving to Juneau, Alaska. Seems they still have some values out there.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me see if I can state this more clearly.

I was trying to make three points.

One, the boys who sat in the car are guilty of a different set of wrongs than the boys who got out of the car. Moreover, among the boys who got out of the car, those who actually assaulted people and took their things are guilty of a different set of wrongs than those - if any - who didn't. They are all guilty of one thing or another - none are innocent - but there are varying degrees of guilt here.

The law may or may not distinguish between these wrongs, but I do, and I find it hard to believe that others do not.

Two, we don't know (from the press reports) whether or how many of the Garfield football players, stayed in the car, got out of the car, or committed assaults. If you accept the idea of various levels of guilt (no levels of innocence), then you surely accept the idea of various levels of appropriate punishment.

Three, WE don't know who did what, but their parents and the coach do know. Those people not only have the first-hand knowledge that we lack about the crimes, they also have deeper first-hand knowledge about the students. Furthermore, they are the people who have the responsibility and authority to mete out punishment. I am EXTREMELY reluctant to second-guess their judgement without the benefit of their information. I don't want people telling me what punishments I should give my children - particularly people who don't know my children and who don't know what they have done.

So we can have an interest in this case, we can seek more information, we can pose some hypotheticals, and we can say what we would do if it were our children or players on our team sitting in the car, getting out of the car, or committing assault.

But we should refrain from criticizing the well-informed decisions of the parents and the coach when we have only scant knowledge of the people, situation, or events.

As much as I believe in the assumption of innocence, I think the District and the WIAA should have a policy that would make a student ineligible for participation in interscholastic athletics - at least for a time - if the student commits a violent crime. However the District or the WIAA does it, however, should be careful not to duplicate or interfere with a criminal investigation or with the Court. Perhaps the ineligibility could be imposed following arraignment.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I respectfully disagree with you.

I believe the boys sitting in the car and the driver are equally as responsible as the person who actually committed the assault and robbery.

The only way I would think that they were not equally responsible is if the assault were a surprise. If they had no knowledge that it was going to happen. This was not the case as two assaults were committed. After the first assault the driver continued to drive the boys to the location of the second assault, and the passengers continued to ride along and watch the second assault. This eliminates the element of "surprise".

The second way that I would excuse the driver and boys that stayed in the car is if they were there forcibly. Say, held at gun point to drive, or something equally intimidating.

According to all reports that I have read, neither of these two scenarios were the case.

If someone views child pornography, do hold them less accountable than the person who actually committed the act? I don't.

If a man hires/pays someone to kill his wife, is he less responsible than the person who pulled the trigger? I don't think so.

If a person drives the getaway car for a bank robbery, is he less responsible than the person who actually went into the bank and robbed it? I don't think so.

I'm not a lawyer, so I can't debate their legal culpability. I'm just talking from a human, and moral perspective. A perspective that believes that all of these boys should be held responsible and accountable for what happened. What would we teach the driver, if we said "you are not responsible for this terrible act. You were just driving"

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in shifting this discussion to what we could be doing at home and in the schools to help prevent incidents like this?

Anonymous said...

I'm just not sure what schools can do to prevent children from participating in acts like this? I agree with earlier posters, though, that their should be consequences such as removal from athletic teams.

I do know what families can do. It is fairly simple. Teach and model good behavior, and traits such as honesty, pride, integrity, responsibility, accountability. Teach your children to make good choices and take the high road, even though it will be difficult sometimes. Teach your children respect for themselves, their planet, and fellow human beings. Apply (reasonable) consequences from when your children are very young when they don't model acceptable behavior. Keep an open line of communication with your kids, and connect with them. Spend a lot of time together as a family. Eat dinner together. To a reasonable extent, monitor where they are and who they are with.

I have no illusions that my children will make mistakes, make some bad choices, experiment, and take some risks. It is how they learn. It's how they mature. But, I can say confidently that my children will not commit a violent crime such as mugging or assaulting anyone. We have taught and they get what it means to be a caring human beings that treat others as they wish to be treated.

Charlie Mas said...

You do realize that the second assault came two days after the first, right?

Anonymous said...

You do realize that it was the same group of boys in both incidents, right?

Anonymous said...

Yup, it's true. The same 5 boys that rode together to assault an innocent victim on September 10th, got into the same car together for yet another assault and robbery on September 12th. It is unconscionable to me that anyone could excuse or make light of the participation of the driver, the passengers, and even the boy who got out of the car and watched the assault. I truly hope the our legal system will penalize these boys appropriately. All of them.

To the coach's credit he has said that the players status on the team may change if there is a conviction.

Anonymous said...

Here is Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times story on the cop out that Seattle has taken with the Garfield incident. He holds everyone accountable. Players, parents, coach, principal and district. I agree with him.

"The problem involves a string of copouts the length of a football field. The school district says it can't do anything because its rules don't cover disciplining students who commit crimes off school grounds. Garfield principal Ted Howard says he was advised to leave the situation alone, so he let the parents decide on punishment. Garfield coach Anthony Allen followed orders, and the parents allowed their kids to play Thursday against Woodinville.

In utopia, this wouldn't be a story. The parents would've recognized the need for tough love and pulled their children off the team. It is the parents' job to take the decision away from the school by making one themselves. They deserve the most criticism.

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Because they copped out, we must move onto the next copout.

Garfield should've had the guts to do something, anything. Forget the rules; there are ways around rules, especially when we're talking about a rule that doesn't even exist.

Garfield's responsibility was twofold. Howard should've protected the school's reputation while also helping his troubled students in the most helpful manner.

He failed at both, and this incident has turned into a black eye not only for the school's administration and football team, but for anyone associated with Garfield. It's unfortunate but true. Traditions carry schools. Controversies tarnish them.

To his credit, Howard listens to and understands differing viewpoints in this argument. He seems genuine when he says his only option was to go strictly by the rulebook. When asked why he didn't do more, he said, "I think the policies have to change for us to address that."

To be fair, those Bulldogs players still could be proven innocent, but it would be difficult considering they essentially admitted guilt and returned stolen items to one of the victims. Regardless, an unforgiving public will remember only that the kids played while this cloud hovered.

Garfield had an out. Allen could've kept the players on the team but sat them during the games. It's a coach's prerogative.

If Allen had done this, the players would've received the discipline, regimen and stay-off-the-streets activity football provides while getting proper punishment. And if your goal is to teach children, here's a valuable lesson: Making kids stay on task when there's no obvious reward involved.

Because Garfield copped out, we must move onto the next copout.

The Seattle School District had better be revising its athletic handbook as we speak. And the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association had better be establishing a policy on athletes arrested, charged or convicted of crimes.

The language needs to be clear and merciless. No kid should be allowed to compete while in legal trouble. I'm sorry. Y'all aren't even thinking about playing.

If kids are found not guilty, then reinstate them. But the school should be allowed to take away extracurricular activities. It can't be in the parents' hands.

Schools don't let parents decide playing time. Why should they let parents make decisions that affect a school's integrity?

Howard describes Garfield High as spirit-filled, diverse and lively. He's an alum, Class of 1985. Garfield is more than the school he leads; it's his heart.

"You just kind of hold your head up high," Howard said, dismissing the negative publicity. "You know Garfield is bigger than this incident."

He should've drawn from that love to make his decisions, not from compassion, not even from fairness.

Playing high-school sports is not a right. If it were a right, every child cut from the team would be able to sue.

No one — neither the parents, nor Garfield, nor the school district — can escape blame. Every adult ran from proper discipline. It led to one embarrassing conclusion: A no-brainer turned into a controversy.

Even no-brainers have loopholes, if that's what the adults allow.

Well, you know what they say: It takes a village to raze a child."

Jerry Brewer
jbrewer@seattletimes.com.