Letter: School Committee double faults on students, public

To the Editor,

Last year boys’ varsity tennis was taken from the spring sports docket to add boys’ varsity volleyball at Mt. Hope High School. Which sport is more important? No one can determine that.

The important theme is that all children should have an opportunity to participate in varsity sports.

At the School Committee Meeting on Aug. 13, 2013, the public was told that there would be more discussion, more answers about Title IX, and that a decision would not be made until all points were considered. At that meeting, no one advocated for boys’ volleyball, but a multitude of people spoke to keep boys’ varsity tennis.

At a later school committee meeting, much to the  surprise of many, tennis was dropped and volleyball was added.

All year long, several of us have been trying to understand the reasoning and lack of transparency behind this move. We attended school committee  meetings, met with former Superintendent Melinda Thies and Athletic Director Christy Belisle,  attended budget workshops, and recently met with  Superintendent Mario Andrade.

Up until the meeting with Dr. Andrade, never once did we get a clear answer. It was just discussion and diversion. To appease us, in its place, a boys’ tennis club was created. We were assured that while it is not the same caliber or quality, it would still be competitive. We were told the students would have opportunities to play matches, be allowed to play in the State Tennis Championships, and have the same number of matches they had as an interscholastic team.

This was not the case. Six matches were organized, but only four were played the entire season. The students were told they would be able to at least compete in the individual State Tennis Championship but were denied the opportunity because they were not part of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League; they were just members of a club.

The boys were devastated. Members of this club, both boys and girls, experienced some very serious and traumatic situations. They were exposed to alcohol being bought for underage students, cyber sexting by an adult, and even reported verbal sexual harassment. Not was this team surreptitiously dismantled and turned into a club, they were abused yet again when someone  allegedly performed these horrible acts on them. Will they recover? Sure. Will they always remember? Yes.

The lack of transparency, poor communication, and skirting around the public’s requests put these students in this unfortunate position. These adults in positions of power are supposed to be serving the town and its students, setting an example for the students to follow. What are these students to learn from this experience?

The least the school department can do now is bring back boys’ varsity tennis, admit the mistake, and rectify it. Give these boys the opportunity they deserve that was unfairly taken away from them.

Susan Contente
Rhonda Fortin
Judy Squires
Bristol

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