Phillipsburg NJ Wrestlers Could Have Used School District’s Support

Since this story has made the national news, you may have heard about the Phillipsburg NJ high school wrestlers who were suspended last week, from school and wrestling, for posting an inappropriate photo to social media.

We at ThirdParent believe that the situation could have been resolved more quickly, and in a manner that would have had a less negative impact on the boys going forward. An excerpt of our email as written to Phillipsburg school officials, which as yet has not been answered, is as follows:

February 22, 2014

…From the outset, it was clear that this incident was a violation of the NJSIAA Sportsmanship Rule, as well as the Phillipsburg BOE Sportsmanship Policy #5570. As soon as the picture was published on social media, the kids were guilty of taunting an opposing team or teams in a derogatory fashion and were subject to discipline. That violation has since been confirmed by Steve Timko, NJSIAA Executive Director.

Had you come out publicly at the time this story broke and stated as much, the incident could have ended right there.

As it stands now, the question of whether the incident was racist lingers (for the purposes of the NJSIAA policy, it doesn’t seem to me that it does), the Warren County prosecutor is reportedly weighing criminal charges, the boys are lawyered up and trying to say whatever they can to salvage their season and you have remained mostly silent on the issue.

I would welcome the opportunity to hear your side of the story in an effort to better help the parents of NJ high school athletes.

We are not defending the actions of the boys. Quite the opposite, but we believe that the punishment should have been swift and transparent.

phillipsburg-wrestlersThe first mention in the press was Monday, February 17 in the Star Ledger at, and in the initial article Superintendent Chando is quoted as having written in an email:

“This is a student matter that is currently under investigation and upon conclusion of the investigation, the district will take those actions necessary and allowable with law and district policies”

We wouldn’t encourage any school district official to rush to judgment, but in this case, the photo was a clear violation of NJSIAA policies. Even on February 20th, when it was confirmed that the boys in the photo were scratched from an upcoming wrestling competition, the school principal declined to comment on the reason for the suspension. All last week, amid the school’s silence, the speculation ramped about the motive behind the photo, whether it was racist and the reason for the punishment.

A simple statement from a school official early last week along the lines of, “We have spoken to the teachers and coaches and these are good kids. While they have made a mistake and violated an NJSIAA policy and will face a suspension, we encourage all to help these kids move on from this situation.”

As parents, we’d like to think that the wellbeing of the children, even under adverse circumstances where punishment is warranted, is the primary concern of school officials. It appears that other motives were at work here.


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