Hockey parents scorned (5×8 – 2/26/13)

Don’t mess with the hockey team, the frac sand debate: Take the money? And: Nick Anderson’s reward, the homeless man and the engagement ring, and the winter bike ride.


1) THE DANGER OF KEEPING SECRETS: ANGRY PARENTS

In the state of hockey, you don’t mess with tournament time. That much must be clear to the officials at Mound-Westonka High in Minnesota who suspended six hockey players after they participated in a “Harlem Shake” video that their school had apparently approved.

It happened just a few hours before Mound-Westonka’s hockey team was to play – and lose to – Blaine Blake.

The cops had to be called to the school cafeteria and initially filed disorderly conduct charges. But the school backed off and reduced student suspensions from two days to one. But the kids had permission to make their video and an announcement was made in the cafeteria that they’d be shaking. Still, they got disciplined.

That’s not good enough for the hockey parents, who hit the school board last night looking for someone’s head. And they got it.

“There ought to be, like, zero tolerance for bone-headed, knee-jerk-reaction administrators,” said one man in attendance. “Put that in your policy pipe and light it up.”

Westonka School District Superintendent Kevin Borg apologized to parents last night and then announced that activities director Dion Koltes was placed on administrative leave, WCCO reported. But, Borg wouldn’t say why Koltes was suspended.

This is the latest in the cat-and-mouse situation where school districts can’t or won’t share information on which they base their decisions about students. That only fuels the anger. It motivated an editorial in today’s Star Tribune.


If they indeed have video evidence that supports their disciplinary decision, school officials should share it at the very least with the suspended students and their families. Those accused and punished for a violation have a right to see and hear the evidence against them. And officials should share more information with the public to help citizens understand why the punishment was necessary.

The discipline in this case may or may not be justified. But a poor lesson is taught by a climate of secrecy in such matters.

Absent that evidence and a thorough investigation, it is understandable that some parents and students are upset about even the reduced suspension. It’s not enough for school officials to simply say “take our word for it” without providing more proof.

This is the latest in the cat-and-mouse game between school districts and the public when it comes to not explaining actions. It motivated the Star Tribune to editorialize about it today.

More apologies: This one really has the journo community up in arms. In North Carolina, a small town newspaper asked the local sheriff for gun permit data. The community backlash prompted an amazing apology from the paper’s publisher. (Romenesko)

If only it were the State of Band: Stillwater might eliminate music in elementary schools. (Patch)

2)THE FRAC SAND DEBATE: TAKE THE MONEY?

Dr. Wayne Feyereisn of St. Charles could have taken the money and walked away. He’s got a contract with the owner of a proposed frac sand mine to buy his land. Instead, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports, he’s spearheading an effort to find out what health effects the sand mining might have on people.

“I can’t just ethically and morally walk away from this,” he tells the paper. “I think you’re going to have silica-sand mining happening, definitely. But how do you do it in an environmentally responsible manner?”

MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar and Tom Scheck report a legislative committee is about to vote on a bill which would impose a production tax on the industry and require the state to conduct a generic Environmental Impact Statement on silica sand mining.

“This silica sand mining has been going on for years,” said company spokesman Mitchell Bublitz. “If Minnesota puts in place a statewide moratorium, all it’s going to do is allow Wisconsin to sell all the more. Wisconsin is moving tons and tons of silica sand as we speak.”

But not everyone in Wisconsin is selling out. Mark Dietsche in Dunn County says he knows he’s sitting on a gold mine, but he’s not giving up farming. (See video)

More politics: Sunday liquor sales? Forget it. (Duluth News Tribune)

3) NICK ANDERSON’S REWARD

Over the weekend we told you the heartwarming story from Texas where a basketball coach, his team, and a good kid on the opposition conspired to make a dream come true for a young man with great challenged.

Here’s another one.

At Holy Angels in Richfield on Friday night, Nick Anderson, who has cerebral palsy, got the starting assignment on the school’s basketball team.

“I was so happy and so relieved to finally score,” he told Mike Max. “I mean, when I was younger I was told I would never play the game of basketball.”

4) WITH THIS RING

Over the years, we’ve learned many rags-to-riches homeless person stories don’t work out with happy endings — the homeless man with the great voice, or the man who was befriended by a cop who bought him new boots, for example. Maybe this one is different.

Sarah Darling accidentally dropped her diamond engagement ring into Billy Ray Harris’ donation cup. She realized her mistake the next day and went back to where Harris was asking for money. He had saved the ring for her and gave it back. So she set up a fundraising site. At last check, it’s raised $148,000.

5) EMBRACING WINTER: THE BIKE RIDE

Remember back when people used to put their bikes away for winter?

Ride, 2-23-2013 from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Bonus I: How a small schoolhouse was turned into a home in Nova Scotia. Beautiful pictures. (Tiny House blog)

Bonus II: How language shapes the gun debate. (NPR)

TODAY’S QUESTION

The horse meat scandal that began in Ireland last month has spread across Europe, with horse DNA now having been discovered in IKEA meatballs sold in 13 European countries. Some European leaders are calling for new labeling regulations in hopes of bolstering confidence in the food supply. Today’s Question: Does the horsemeat scandal in Europe raise questions for you about the food you buy?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Should a wolf hunt be allowed in Minnesota?

Second hour: Is there a future for electric cars?

Third hour: Because of complications in the tribal justice system, many assault cases on tribal lands get overlooked or bounced around between tribal law enforcement, state police, and the federal government. Will the Violence Against Women provision help close a tribal justice loophole? Supporters say it’s not a perfect fix, and the fate of the bill is unclear, but many think it’s a good first step in addressing a decades-old problem.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): –“Justice Denied: How the Federal Courts Enforced Slavery.” (Humankind special about early abolitionists and the Dred Scott decision)

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Dexter Filkins considers the future of Hezbollah if Syria’s regime falls.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR looks at how parents navigate the competing demands of the weekday evenings and the changing tradition of the family dinner.

MPR’s Dan Olson profiles the refurbished instruments at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Second hour: Is there a future for electric cars?

    Yes, but probably not the future some has envisioned. They will continue to be a “niche market” product for some time. The batteries will get better, the range longer. I think we will continue to see more and more hybrid electric-gasoline and electric-diesel engines in the future. True electric cars will continue to be made and sold (albiet slowly), as many major automakers have made serious investments into EV technology.

    No, they are not for everyone, and every purpose. But the electric car does have a future.

  • jon

    @#1 – Would there be outrage if this was just students, not hockey player students?

  • JBL

    The Harlem Shake story concerns me less about the details of the incident than about media obsession with knowing every detail of student or staff discipline.

    As an educator, I live in fear that a student’s parent will go to the media with a false story about me. I’ve seen colleagues falsely accused publicly, then told by all kinds of lawyers that they can’t respond with the facts.

    One friend was accused of assaulting a student in the press, though there was clear video evidence that the student had in fact assaulted him (which the parent saw before going to the paper). Neither he nor the district felt they could tell their side of the story and their silence was characterized as guilt. He retired early, his reputation unfairly destroyed.

    Part of me wants to say we need a law that releases educators from student privacy rules if publicly accused by a student or their family. But another part of me, the better part, knows that our students are less equipped to handle media glare. If a mom over reacts and calls a TV station, should her kid be publicly humiliated for normal adolescent misbehavior?

    How do media view their role here? I know when it comes to crime, most won’t published the accused’s name unless they are charged. What are the ground rules for stories about educators accused of not handling a situation well? Or kids who make a mistake? Frankly, I worry there aren’t any and that the media is unaware of the devastating effects of their publicity.

  • Pat

    I believe it was Blake, not Blaine.

  • http://www.aplaceinmound.com gml4

    As a Westonka parent, I am embarrassed at the over-reactions of these parents and the situation their children have put them in over their conduct in school. It’s really simple. You want to play hockey in the biggest game of your life… then don’t screw up! Don’t jump on the school cafeteria table and mess around thinking that’s ok. There are consequences for making mistakes… whether they are fair or not.

    And the suggestion to fire an administrator over a matter like this is over the top.

    Mound Westonka schools are a great place for kids. Both Elementary schools have won National Blue ribbons in the last few years, our test schools are amongst the best in the state, and we have dedicated, hard working teachers giving kids like mine great education.

  • kennedy

    Re #1b – Gun permits and public records request

    Maybe the sheriff in North Carolina could give educators a few tips on how to use media and public opinion to your own advantage. He was able to stir up enough emotion that he was able to violate public records law with popular support. In contrast educators try to keep everything secret, giving the appearance of a cover up and earning public wrath.

  • Bob Collins

    // I know when it comes to crime, most won’t published the accused’s name unless they are charged.

    If you’re a regular reader, you know this is an old rant for me. There is no REAL policy at most media that is ironclad. There is mostly a contention that there is a policy. But on stories that rise to the “media gives a darn” level, the name is almost always reported.

    As for teachers, I share your concern BUT there’s an overriding sense that schools are only to happy to cite the privacy laws.

    In Woodbury a couple of years ago, a superintendent was fired and we weren’t told why. There was a huge buyout in a southern suburb of a school official and we weren’t told why.

    As long as people fund the system, they certainly have a right, it seems to me, to know why.

    Clearly, it seems to me, there was some wrongdoing that led to the big buyout and perhaps the person who got it deserves privacy. But it also prevents accountability on the part of the people who hired her to explain how she got the job in the first place.

    I tend to remember these things when it comes to school levy voting time.

  • John O.

    Q: How many school administrators and/or school district communication staff does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: District policy prohibits us from disclosing any additional information.

  • BJ

    How does the activities director suspend students without consent of Principal? If someone gave permission, to film video, why didn’t they get in the middle of the ‘fray’ or supervise its production?

  • Disco

    “I tend to remember these things when it comes to school levy voting time.”

    So do you vote against the levies then?

  • Laura

    I don’t get it, why did the students get in trouble for the video? Isn’t it just a dance?

  • Bob Collins

    // So do you vote against the levies then?

    It depends on what the levy is for. SWashCo hasn’t had one since they bought out the superintendent.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Was in New Mexico over Christmas. Frac sand is so common down there nobody bats an eye. In fact, we took a walk down a trail by one of the rail lines so my mom could bottle up a bunch of it for her science students. They haul it in covered rail cars and, we found out, it can sometimes be considered proprietary materials so they will color it certain colors and you’re really not supposed to go around taking it.

  • xopher

    If you give permission to students to make a Harlem Shake video (in school, using school property) you have already messed up. (Some Harlem Shake videos are safe and boring, but the good ones are a little riskier.)

    If you punish the students for making the video you gave them permission to make, you have messed up again.