MIAA stiffens penalties for student athletes
A new regulation adopted by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has significant implications for high school student athletes.
The new rule, which takes effect beginning in the fall season of the upcoming school year, will penalize student athletes who are caught drinking or using drugs in the off-season. The rule does not apply to students caught during summer vacation.
The new rule suspends a student for 25 percent of his or her games or competitions for the upcoming season for off-season violations. Previously, students would only be suspended from competition if caught during the season in which they were playing.
Though some individual schools already applied this rule in the off-season, there was no MIAA-mandated penalty, until the regulation was passed in May. The new rule corrects what MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel describes as a "loophole" in the MIAA rulebook.
"There were administrators and principals talking about the problem that would occur when student athletes were having parties between seasons," said Mr. Wetzel. "They found that kids who were worried about getting suspended felt as if they could take the chance of drinking (in the off-season) and if they were caught they wouldn't have to serve any penalty."
Though this is a new MIAA rule, many schools already had this rule in place. "If (schools) have a stricter penalty, then that supercedes our penalty, but ours is the minimum penalty," said Mr. Wetzel. "Some of them have lesser penalties, but our penalty would have to be imposed."
MVRHS athletic director and boys basketball coach Mike Joyce said he supports the new rule and thinks it sends the right message, but he expressed some concern regarding enforcement of the penalty. "Policing it will be a little difficult in terms of keeping track of when some of these things occur and who's on what team to begin with. It was easier before. Now you have to keep track of all those incidents. Where do you draw the line between educating them and being their parent?"
Unlike some schools, MVRHS does not have a guilt by association policy that penalizes every student-athlete present at a party where drugs or alcohol are found with a suspension, regardless of whether or not they were participating in the illicit activities.
The MIAA rule provides a graduated series of penalties, starting with a suspension from 25 percent of competitions for a first offense, 60 percent for a second offense. A third offense would require a student to attend a recognized certified alcohol or drug program in addition to another suspension from 60 percent of competitions. Students are encouraged to participate in team practices during that time, however.
"It sends a pretty significant message without totally crippling the kid in terms of his or her ability to participate, with the kid still practicing," said Mr. Joyce. "You don't just cut the kid loose for two weeks."
So far, the MIAA has received only praise from athletic directors and principals statewide, although Mr. Wetzel anticipates a few complaints from parents.
"We won't receive any complaints from schools," said Mr. Wetzel. "We won't get any complaints from parents until the penalty is imposed on somebody. It's not unusual to get complaints from parents once their child has received a penalty."