Portage policy is good step

In every venue in which a formal policy exists, that policy should be enforced in a uniform way.

There should be no grounds for anyone to allege special treatment or conflict of interest.

That’s the laudable goal behind the Portage Area School Board’s revision of the district’s policy for dealing with students, parents and other spectators accused of having been involved in misconduct at a school-related athletic contest or other event.

In the past, there were instances when different punishments were meted out for similar kinds of misconduct.

It’s troubling that there are times when some individuals can’t come to grips with the fact that school activities are, first and foremost, intended to be learning experiences for the participants. People attending events as spectators should not lose control of their emotions in a way detrimental not only to the students, but to the activities and school district as well.

Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that only Portage Area has experienced. However, some districts have been better than others in addressing it.

Commendably, Portage Area, by its action, is striving to become a district that others will regard as a positive example to emulate.

The former version of Portage’s policy, which district officials admit was “vague,” didn’t always ensure that the district would stand out as one committed to the kind of fair response that’s in the best interests of the school system as well as those accused of having “stepped over the line.”

As reported in the Oct. 12 Mirror, the revision now in place establishes a protocol for ensuring that a spectator removed from an event will be dealt with in a way consistent with what others guilty of similar examples of misconduct, going forward, can expect.

However, this revision, despite its emphasis on fairness, isn’t likely to eliminate beliefs by some people that it’s an overreaction or that it’s heavy-handed.

Regardless, the revised policy hopefully will serve the district as a deterrent as well as a specific “road map” for reacting correctly to unwanted situations.

The foundation of the revised policy is the requirement that a fan or spectator removed from an event by a school official is suspended from further attendance until the person appears before the board.

A certified letter stipulating the requirement will be sent to the individual involved as a prelude to meeting with the board.

When that person appears before the board, he or she will have the opportunity to plead his or her case prior to the board making a decision about the future — presumably, about whether or when the person might be permitted to attend future events.

During the board session at which the policy revision was approved, the board didn’t discuss what the potential courses of action might be, but it’s important that all be evaluated and approved by the district’s solicitor before the board attempts to use them.

Suffice to say that, whatever the actions, they will be aimed at protecting students, the district and others attending events.

“Now it’s (the policy) in black and white, and that’s how it’s going to be,” said board Vice President Kathy Hough.

The only downside is that the policy revision wasn’t carried out sooner.