High schools have some low standards - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

High schools have some low standards

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Posted: Friday, April 2, 2004 3:40 am | Updated: 4:40 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A Mountain View football player forcibly pulls a girl's head to his crotch — his second offense of a sexual nature — but school officials go to great lengths not to kick him off the team.

A Desert Vista basketball player misses 247 classes yet retains his eligibility and plays in the 5A state championship game.

Two, four, six, eight, anyone out there we can appreciate?

We should be disgusted by the latest revelations at two of the most successful East Valley high school athletic programs.

A teenage girl was violated. An academic institution was compromised.

Instead, the news doesn't strike the gut and take our breath away because we've seen and heard worse. Far, far too often.

The stench from Desert Vista is particularly strong, although not surprising. Rival schools have long suspected the Thunder played fast and loose in recruiting out-of-district players for its athletic programs.

Among the Tribune's recent discoveries:

- Xavier Kilby, a star player on the Thunder's basketball team, skipped classes 247 times this academic year but didn't have to turn in his uniform.

There may be extenuating circumstances in Kilby's case, but let's not be naive: If Kilby played the trumpet and missed 247 classes, would he have been allowed to toot his horn in the band championships?

- Former student Chris Snow said he did 70 percent to 80 percent of the homework for ex-football player Elton Johnson during the 1998 state championship season and was paid by the district for his extracurricular activity.

At least Snow went to class.

- School officials changed a former athlete's grades, enabling her to receive an athletic scholarship to college.

If you're wondering where Desert Vista's principal was as these misdeeds were occurring, all I can tell you is this: His name is Joe McDonald, he's a former football player at Arizona State, and when former coach Jim Rattay was running up the score to bolster the statistics of his quarterback son, McDonald vigorously defended him.

Mountain View administrators also have some explaining to do.

That they followed district policy in not reporting the sexual aggression to police is a plausible, if paper-thin, argument.

But how can they justify transferring the student to Red Mountain High School, then allowing the football player to return to Mountain View every afternoon so he could take a physical education class and retain his eligibility?

It is an egregious ethical and moral lapse but, again, we shouldn't be surprised.

Principal Craig Luketich and, to a lesser extent, athletic director David Hines, were the yes men who allowed football coach Bernie Busken to run amok and create a culture of fear and paranoia at Mountain View.

When news surfaced two years ago of Busken's physical and emotional abuse of players, Luketich and Hines stood by their state championship-winning coach instead of students who needed responsible educators in charge, not cheerleaders. Busken was fired for his actions, but Mesa Unified School District officials didn't take the necessary second step and fire the administrators.

The district governing board, which should have stepped in and righted all the wrongs at Mountain View, saw, heard and spoke no evil.

Said board member Tom Rhodes at the time: “I sincerely hope we don't have to face this. Frankly, I just don't want to go there. That's just me as an individual. I suppose my coward is showing.”

The coward's way out: Football is still king at Mountain View, and darned if some girl is going to spoil Friday nights.

It's too late in the game to believe in the absolute purity of high school sports. But some semblance of integrity should exist. If high school coaches and administrators aren't willing to stand up for what's right, they should be replaced with someone who will.

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