Monday, July 06, 2009

The Gilpin Report: Post Mortem from C-J

Over the weekend C-J weighed in with several takes on the Jefferson County Schools long awaited official response to the Max Gilpin tragedy, plus a political cartoon from Marc Murphy.

July 3, 2009
In "The Gilpin report" the Courier notes,

Eleven months ago, after Pleasure Ridge Park High School football player Max Gilpin died after collapsing at football practice, Jefferson County Public Schools released initial findings into his loss of life that were appallingly shallow and quick. That first review showed that no guidelines or protocols had been breached in the practice that felled the 15-year-old sophomore.

The ensuing, second investigation was neither quick nor shallow. The district interviewed more than 125 people for the voluminous report it finally made public on Wednesday, and it took them almost a year to do it.

After all that, however, the results were virtually the same.

Jefferson County Superintendent Sheldon Berman was taken to task for his simple defense that "no rules were violated" and that it was afterall, a "typical" practice that took the life of Max Gilpin. C-J also reminds us that another player went to the hospital that day while others merely vomitted on the sidelines while being extolled by head coach Jason Stinson to keep running until somebody quit.
One boy finally raised his hand — "Bingo, we have a winner," some players recall Mr. Stinson saying...
Berman claimed he was outraged, but it took a year for that outrage to manifest itself; something C-J seems to give him credit for. Berman is calling a halt to the "negative motivation," coaches training, health and safety seminars for players and parents, and "a mandatory listing of all nonprescription medications and supplements for a doctor's review at the time of the athlete's customary physical examination."
But they don't credit him for reassuring the public.
[The report] raises as many questions as it answers, assigns no responsibility to anyone in the school district's employment for the tragedy and as a result does not undo the damage of the stumbling JCPS response last August. If anything, the report provides additional grounds for public concern...
But this episode is a long way from over and C-J's promise to watch the episode through to the end is thinly veiled.

[T]he release of the district's findings does not put a period on the end of any sentence about the death of Max.

Mr. Stinson's criminal trial for reckless homicide is scheduled for next month. A civil case brought by Max Gilpin's parents against a number of school-related individuals is planned for early next year. There is no doubt that the findings of the criminal investigation conducted by the Louisville Metro Police Department and the results of the JCPS investigation will be used in both trials, and The Courier-Journal's news pages already have listed a half-dozen contradictions between reports.

Time will tell if the district's "most extensive investigation" holds up alongside the police work and the court disclosures. Surely, Mr. Berman understands the damage that will be done to the school district if it does not.

Public reaction to the story continues to be strong.

July 4, 2009
'Keep our children alive'
Let this be fair warning to all JCPS student athletes: Superintendent Sheldon Berman has just made it official district policy that it is OK for your coach to run you to death. ...To C-J editors, please, before the next election, remind us which school board members lauded Berman's performance so we can vote for someone else.
Prospect, Ky. 40059

'Bad example'
Well duh, what did you expect? Certainly not the truth or responsibility. This is the school system. ... showing [students] how to cheat, lie and then blame the innocent person for his own death.
Corydon, Ind. 47112

'Bozich's column'
These days I have to look long and hard to find anyone in any walk of life to respect and admire, but Rick Bozich's column about the JCPS report on Max Gilpin catapulted him into that short list... [I am thankful for]...his willingness to use his writing skills to say what needs to be said to keep people thinking and also not allow people in positions of higher responsibility and authority to sidestep accountability when they act badly.
Louisville 40207

July 5, 2009
'An ex-football mom's reactions'
... It is very disappointing that in every story, someone has the finger of blame pointed in someone's direction.
This story brought back memories of my oldest son who loved the game and played every year from fifth grade through high school. He played with broken bones, bruises, muscle strains and incredible exhaustion. He would hide his injuries at times because he did not want to sit out. He played because he loved the game. Practices in the heat of August, games in freezing rain were part of the program.
I think if we are being honest with ourselves, we would admit that it's pretty much common knowledge that all football coaches are the same. Football is a brutal and exacting sport. Fans expect their coaches to be tough and, more important, they demand that their teams be winners...
The fact that JCPS found nothing "wrong" should not be a surprise. The coaches simply did what all football coaches do and have done for years...
... Unless the game of football is changed, coaches will not only be allowed, but encouraged to do whatever it takes to produce success. As parents, we must provide the balance to the fanaticism of the game.
Louisville 40207

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