Silver Chips Online

Two Wilson football players are off the team, but DCPS loses the game

Football scandal at Wilson is reflection of poor administration, not student mistakes

By Aidan Keys, Staff Writer
September 12, 2014
On August 29, 2014, The Washington Post published an article titled "Two Wilson football players from another school lose spot on high school's team," which reports that two special-ed students were dismissed from Wilson High School's football team after DC Public Schools learned that the students didn't actually attend the school. These students are juniors at the LAB school, a private school for students with disabilities. They had been playing on the Wilson team for two years. Clearly, these non-Wilson students shouldn't be able to play for a Wilson team, but it wasn't these students' fault. Instead, the football coach at Wilson High School should take responsibility for letting the students on the team. Most of all, however, DCPS should have noticed the problem earlier.
Wilson High School's football coach shouldn't have let the students onto the team. Courtesy of Wilson High School
Wilson High School's football coach shouldn't have let the students onto the team.

Bruce Leshan of Channel 9 News reported that a spokeswoman for DCPS schools said that the students "were allowed to play on the team under the mistaken belief that they were DCPS students. But when the school realized its mistake, it had to enforce rules and regulations." The problem with this "mistake" is that even if the coach had known that the boys didn't go to Wilson, and checked out laws against inter-school football participation, and then sneakily decided to let the students play on the team, administration should have been alerted to the situation. This is a "big mistake" that didn't have to happen. The true problem is that Wilson's administration isn't well organized. Despite what the article in the Washington Post or the Channel 9 feature suggests, this isn't the students' fault.

Wilson dramatically kicked the boys off the football team after the first game of the season, multiplying the humiliation of rejection. This situation could have been avoided had the District adopted a bill which says that taxpayer money can be used to help students with disabilities to attend private schools. Since taxpayers would be funding the students, the students would technically be part of the public system. These students, therefore, would be able to play for DCPS teams. Since the District didn't adopt this law, the students aren't able to play.

Sports are an important feature of teenage life. They promote a secure work ethic while relieving stress from the demands of high school academics. One of the boys told Channel 9 News that football was his life. Though he may be exaggerating, there is truth in his words. High school students are constantly striving to identify themselves through an activity. Rejection from a favorite activity can become a negative high school experience. Psychologists found that being rejected from a simple ball-tossing game can elicit emotional pain. It's therefore reasonable that an inability to participate in the glory of "Friday Night Lights" can cause significant trauma. The humiliation of having that pain presented on people's televisions on the 5 o'clock news is unimaginable. And that's on top of petty high school gossip.

This situation is not a student issue. This is a systemic flaw. Teenagers are bound to make selfish decisions, but as a collective group of accomplished adults, DCPS needed to have acted against these decisions earlier. Both the students and DCPS could've avoided the news had they both made simple decisions to avoid this situation. The boys said they tried out for the team because there wasn't a football program at their school. Channel 9 noted that LAB students had played for Wilson's football team in the past. DCPS, of course, never should've let the situation go forward in the first place.

Since there are complex underlying issues to this situation, let this be a message to special-ed schools to include football programs. Until then, DCPS should adopt that law that allows special-ed students to be a part of the public school system and work on organizing their system. That way, no more students will feel the emotional pain of not being passed the ball.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12584