This week I watched what can happen when penalties are imposed without a solid investigation or some serious fact-finding. The story of six Mound Westonka hockey players unfolded in the media, and to think it all could have been avoided with a little planning and some common sense.
On February 23, the press reported the suspension of six local high school players after a dance video taken in the school cafeteria was posted on YouTube. A group of students including the hockey players made a dance video of the “Harlem Shake” in the school cafeteria. Early reports suggested the performance was authorized, but the six hockey players were suspended hours before the big game, and cited by police for disorderly conduct. As a result of the suspension, the six players missed the section quarterfinal playoff game, and the team lost to Blake 6-4. Parents and players were steamed about the suspensions and the lost opportunity to possibly play in the state finals.
Just two days later, the media reported the suspensions had been reduced and the school was asking police to dismiss the disorderly conduct tickets. The students had reenacted the dance and captured it on video because the dance was part of a school project. It was determined school supervisors were on scene in the cafeteria when the video was made. Parents were outraged and asked for a public apology, and the dismissal of the school administrators who authorized the suspensions.
By the end of the week, School Superintendent Kevin Borg publicly apologized at an open school board meeting, the suspensions were dismissed, the disorderly tickets rescinded, and the school activities director placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. Parents questioned why an investigation had not been conducted before the suspensions issued, and the hockey players denied the ability to play in the big game. Parents cited a rush to judgment and the lack of due process afforded the players.
Knee-jerk reactions usually mean mistakes are likely and things end up wrong. It is always best to gather all of the facts before making a disciplinary decision of any kind, including the hockey rink or in the workplace. It also avoids the microscope of media attention.