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Athletic advisory council works to remedy gray areas in SHS code

Hoping to ease parental concerns about so-called gray areas in the Sunnyside School District athletic code, the district's Athletic Advisory Council met Monday night to clearly define violation investigation and grievance procedures.

In addition to beefing up the code, which already prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs by student-athletes, the advisory council strived to eliminate confusion about how those students who show up at events where illegal substances are present, but who claim not to have used any of those substances, are treated.

It was the consensus of the council that any student-athlete present at such an event, even though not using an illegal substance, will be punished.

The council added a line to the code which firmly declares there will be no exceptions to the association and/or attendance rule, except at the grievance level, where students and parents can appeal any action taken by the athletic review board.

The advisory council also reviewed the code's investigation and appeals procedures, outlining how the investigation process would be conducted. The council cleaned up language regarding how parents would be contacted regarding violations by their children.

All the information gathered in cases of suspected violations will include written statements by witnesses and the accused students, along with police reports as available, said Dennis Birr, Sunnyside High School principal.

Birr said the athletic director and high school assistant principal will interview the athletes in question, using a standard set of questions to be established for each incident.

The athlete in question will be required to provide a signed written statement, according to the council's revised investigation procedure.

In addition, parents will be immediately contacted following the investigation by phone. And, if a violation has occurred, an official letter from the school athletic office will be mailed home with the discipline indicated, Birr explained.

Birr said at that point parents may request an informal conference with the athletic director and may begin the grievance process, if they so wish.

The advisory council has also added a level of education to the athletic code as a part of the first level of penalties, in addition to the option of chemical use assessment, explained Birr.

"Some parents have felt that assessment as a mandatory portion of the discipline code is too harsh. They've urged the council to consider an educational step before assessment is required," he explained.

Called insight education, the preventative education portion of the student's punishment would be handled by an in-house program, said John Hughes, the district's safety director.

If adopted by the Sunnyside School Board as new policy, the insight program would also require parental participation, explained Hughes.

He suggested the education program might be broken into four sessions in order for students to be educated about the dangers of their illegal conduct.

"If needed, and definitely at the cases of second violations, assessment would be required under the changes being advanced by the advisory council," Hughes explained.

The advisory council will review its proposed changes and revisions in April before presenting its recommendations to the Sunnyside School Board at the June board meeting.

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