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District 87 board won't reverse Glenbard West athlete suspensions, despite community outcry

Community members crowd the District 87 Board of Education meeting room Monday to discuss the recent suspension of nearly 30 Glenbard West student-athletes.
Community members crowd the District 87 Board of Education meeting room Monday to discuss the recent suspension of nearly 30 Glenbard West student-athletes.

GLEN ELLYN – More than 100 parents, students and community members packed the Glenbard Township High School District 87 Board of Education meeting room Monday night to make their voices heard, and dozens more filled the hallways outside.

The subject of their support and ire was the suspension of nearly 30 Glenbard West High School student-athletes who were punished after admitting to attending a June 29 party where alcohol was present.

The school's athletic code – which must be signed by all student-athletes – states students shall "not attend, host, plan or otherwise participate in parties ... where the athlete or others are using or in possession of any illegal or controlled substance."

Glen Ellyn Police Department Deputy Chief Bill Holmer said police on the scene took names of students involved to release them directly to their parents on premises. The department later shared the information with the district through an intergovernmental agreement.

Soon after, the athletic department asked several students across multiple sports if they had been in attendance.

Those who admitted to doing so were given suspensions, ranging from 20 percent of eligible games for first-time offenders to entire seasons for those who had been busted before. Many appealed, with some successfully reducing their punishment.

Superintendent David Larson said at the beginning of the meeting that the district stood by its decision. Glenbard West Principal Peter Monaghan said while suspending the students was a difficult and unpleasant thing to do, he fully supported his staff's handling of the situation.

"Our kids understand that this is a problem," Monaghan said. "The athletic code is something that we use again and again to hold our students to a high standard because we know how other kids look to our athletes as examples."

Some in attendance supported the administration.

Patricia Stirb, a West volleyball player and senior student liaison for the board, said she was disappointed in her three suspended teammates.

"As athletes, it is our duty to represent our team, coach, school, district and community," she said. "It should be self-evident that the moment we put on a Glenbard West jersey we are representing the school and should therefore act as role models. Thus, we should abide by the Glenbard District Athletic Code."

Doug Petit, a father from Carol Stream who lost his sophomore son Jonathan in 2005 to a car crash after he drank at a party, also spoke. Trying to get out of the punishment doesn't teach students to respect the consequences of their actions, he said, but rather shows them if they cause enough of a fuss they can break their word.

"Sports taught me that if you get knocked down, you get back up again," he said.

Though several others supported the administration's stance, the vast majority spoke against it. Most asked that – even if the suspensions stayed – the district review the policy that caused them.

"It is overly harsh, overly punitive, and may incur more harm than good," said parent Tom Kane, calling for a "less ambiguous and more realistic" code.

Kane and others who spoke stressed they did not condone underage drinking. Many argued a relative few students at the party were punished, with only one ticket issued by police on scene, and those who were not drinking being penalized indicated an antiquated system.

Former Glenbard West student-athlete and current Harvard linebacker Connor Loftus asked the administration to let student-athletes be the leaders they expect them to be.

"I was forced to look out for myself instead of being out amongst my peers, where I could have taken a leadership role and stepped in to diffuse the potentially dangerous situations that often arise as a result of binge drinking," Loftus said.

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