School board talks student athlete punishments
Policy bans athletes from sports during ongoing court cases
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville School Board voted to indefinitely suspend student-athletes for criminal activity pending the completion of their trial, if not found guilty, or the completion of their sentence.
After a discussion, the school board on April 22 unanimously approved the following policy for the district’s co-curricular handbook:
“A pending or adjudicated civil infraction, pending criminal charges, or criminal conviction, including but not limited to offenses involving theft, willful damage to property, sexual assault, drug offenses, or other serious misdemeanors or felonies (including juvenile delinquency petitions alleging conduct that if committed by an adult would constitute a serious misdemeanor or felony), as determined by the Administration and the Board of Education. The individual shall be suspended indefinitely pending the completion of their trial, if not found guilty, or the completion of their sentence in a court of law.”
Last month, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association membership voted to amend its rules of eligibility to state, “Any student charged and/or convicted of a felony shall, upon the filing of the felony charges, become ineligible for all further participation until the student has paid their debt to society and the courts consider the sentence served (including probation, community service, etc.).”
Clintonville School Board President Ben Huber said he disagreed with the WIAA’s language in this option.
“A student charged is not necessarily guilty and should have the assumption of innocence,” Huber said. “I dislike that clause. We have a legal system based upon checks and balances. One is not guilty and has to pay their debt until they are convicted. I do not like that language.”
The WIAA made this change to its handbook after Milwaukee Washington boys’ basketball player Deontay Long played in the state tournament after being convicted of a felony and while awaiting his sentencing.
The board discussed tabling the topic but agreed a decision needed to be made prior to the district’s fall sports meetings on Wednesday, May 8.
Another option listed included a suspension of 365 calendar days for serious misdemeanors or felonies.
“What if it’s not as serious?” board member Mark Zachow asked. “They’re still suspended for 365 days? That seems like a lot.”
Clintonville Athletic Director Shaun Liesch said there are other options available to choose from.
“We could do one of the other two options, but that’s the one the WIAA voted into their constitution,” Liesch said. “These first two have language from other schools in the conference with their codes. That’s where I was originally going with this before the WIAA added this amendment earlier this year.”
Huber said this could have an impact on students moving forward.
“This will almost certainly affect some students in the future,” Huber said. “It’s a pretty safe assumption at some point or another. Hopefully it won’t, but life says it probably will.”