BATH — An ongoing fight between parents and school officials is bringing student athlete rules into question because of accusations of inconsistencies.
Early in the morning on May 31, 10 boys, all juniors and seniors at Bath High School, went to a friend's house. They toilet-papered the house, saran-wrapped and squirted condiments on their friend's car and urinated on a car, according to Todd Lhamon, a parent of one of the boys.
Tim and Peggy McNett, the owners of the house, caught the boys and called their parents, who made them clean everything up right away. The boys cleaned up and apologized. There was no damage to the property and the McNetts and the parents considered the issue resolved, Lhamon said.
“There's much worse they could be out there doing than going out and toilet-papering somebody's house in my opinion,” Lhamon said.
However, Lhamon said, the McNetts' have a video system on their house and Rick Gross, Bath High School Principal, asked for a copy of the video, which Tim McNett gave reluctantly because Gross told him it would not go further than his desk.
Three weeks later, all the boys got a letter saying they were suspended from 20 percent of their athletic season, according to Lhamon. The boys are involved in either football, cross-country or golf.
Lhamon said he and his son were the fourth or fifth to meet with Superintendent Dale Lewellen. Lhamon said he believes that Lewellen had his mind made up before the meeting and said that Lewellen was unwilling to answer questions. All the students received a letter after their appeals saying that the suspension would be upheld.
“Why the school even gets involved in it at this point in time is one of the things we don't understand,” Lhamon said because the incident occurred over summer break. However, Lhamon's biggest frustration with the situation is inconsistency in punishments.
Lhamon and other parents typed a list of previous incidents at Bath in which students were not as severely punished. He sees this as discrimination against the teens for an unknown reason.
Lewellen said in a letter to each of the students after the appeal that, “I have looked into each of the incidents cited and have determined that the rules were applied in a fair and consistent manner and there is no evidence of bias in this situation.”
However, Lhamon said it only took Lewellen a day and a half to review the 11 incidents listed, which he does not feel is enough time to properly investigate all the incidents. He said he feels Lewellen is essentially “rubber-stamping” anything that Gross says, as Lewellen said he discussed the incidents with Gross.
Lhamon also finds a great deal of frustration in explaining to his son why other students have gotten away with similar acts before without being punished as severely as he is. Some of the students have high GPAs and could potentially not be accepted into National Honors Society because of the incident.
Peggy McNett wrote a letter to the schools saying that while she does not condone what they did, she feels they have been appropriately punished and the suspension should be reconsidered.
“After talking to the young men, I feel that they have learned a lesson and served their punishment for this incident,” Peggy McNett said in her letter.
Lewellen said in his letter that he considers the acts vandalistic in nature, although they do not qualify as vandalism. The Bath Local Schools Uniform Training Rules lists vandalism, not vandalistic acts, another area of frustration for Lhamon.
However, the policy states “Acts of unacceptable conduct include, but are not limited to,” and then lists theft, vandalism, insubordination, instigating of violence and inappropriate use of social media according to the athletic code of conduct.
According to Lhamon, during his son's appeal, Lewellen said that the training rules are a bad policy and that there are plans to change it that were being discussed before the incident.
“It just makes no sense,” Lhamon said.
Lhamon went to the Bath Board of Education Tuesday night and discussed the situation. He said some of the members were not aware and agreed there were inconsistencies.
Lewellen, Gross and Peggy McNett refused to comment.