A new athletic code of conduct, enacted nearly five months after an alleged fight involving Wayne Hills football players, gives coaches broad powers to suspend athletes who violate the code -- whether it be on or off school grounds.
The policy goes into effect immediately.
Student athletes in either high school and each middle school will have to sign the code of conduct if they want to play sports. Parents of students younger than 18 must also sign it.
“This new code is an extremely positive step forward for the district,” Superintendent Ray Gonzalez said in a statement “Now, students, coaches, and parents alike will know exactly what is considered acceptable.”
The policy states that team coaches are charged with establishing discipline and basic rules for their teams. Coaches also have the right to suspend athletes for “infractions of these rules” and the code.
According to the policy, students must always:
- Reflect positively on the team, school and district.
- Support positive discipline and the overall educational environment.
- Follow the rules established by the team, school, and district.
The district’s substance abuse policy is also part of the new code. The policy prohibits students from using all forms of tobacco, alcohol, steroids or chemicals that release vapors.
Athletes who violate the policy will be suspended until the coach makes a recommendation to the school’s athletic director and principal.
The code applies to students whether school is in session or not.
“This code of conduct is in effect before, during, and after school hours, over weekends and breaks, and applicable on or off school grounds,” the code states.
The policy was enacted due to an incident that occurred last October involving nine football players from Wayne Hills High School. The players were charged with aggravated assault after they allegedly attacked two Wayne Valley High School students Oct. 29. At least one case has been dismissed.
Wayne Hills football coach Chris Olsen received criticism from residents for not suspending the players from the team's first two state playoff games last year.
The Board eventually suspended the players for the state championship game, and an administrative law judge upheld the decision. Hills won an eighth group state championship in early December despite the players being banned from the game.
The Board of Education stated in November that a new unified code of conduct would be introduced as part of an action plan in response to the incident.
"Since last fall, our community has been quite focused on the topic of appropriate conduct for our student-athletes, and this document throughly address those questions by eliminating 'gray' areas," Gonzalez said in the statement.
Olsen and Dan Kilday, the athletic directors at Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley, could not be reached for comment.
Gonzalez said that, through the chain of command, “other administrators are able to get involved” in the disciplinary process if necessary.
When drafting the new code, Gonzalez sought input from several Wayne school district administrators, representatives from other, local school districts, and Steven Timko, executive director of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school athletics. He also met with Christopher Cref, acting commissioner of the state Department of Education.
The code also applies to athletes at the district’s three middle schools. The district’s former interscholastic athletic policy applied to high school athletes only.
This is not the first sweeping change that has been made this year regarding the district's athletic programs.
The board approved a policy in January that prohibits administrators and supervisors from coaching sports teams or acting as advisors to any athletic or extra-curricular program.