Monday, November 18, 2002

As a former classroom educator who retains a keen interest in education and schools, I'm very accustomed to hearing stories like this one end with successful parental lawsuits, cowed administrators and eternally frustrated teachers and coaches.

But not in this case - a football coach who suspend 16 of his players (including his own son) for underage drinking

Mike Slaughter wonders what it says about society when a football coach does the right thing and it gets treated like a big deal. Congratulatory letters, faxes, and cards are pouring into his office at Marquette Catholic in Alton, Ill. Radio stations and newspapers are calling from New York to Los Angeles. He's been coaching high school football in obscurity for 25 years and suddenly he's a hero because he had the guts to suspend 16 starters arrested for underage drinking at a house party. It would be nice, though perhaps naive, to believe that every coach in the country would act the same way Slaughter did, especially in his circumstances - the team 10-0 and poised to challenge for the school's first state championship. This was his "once-in-a-lifetime" team, but the way Slaughter saw it, the way any coach should, is that he had no choice except to suspend the players, one of them his own son. "It boils down to accountability," Slaughter says. "It doesn't matter if they drank half a beer or a six-pack, they still broke the rules. I always told my boys that you get in trouble with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, I will suspend you from the team."

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