The Counsellor's Corner
Here is a new twist.† A case has been filed in Marietta in which a high school football player named Derrick Boult is suing the high school for depriving him of his education because they promoted him through school even though his grades were not worthy of promotion, so that he could continue to play high school football.† Mr. Boult claims that he was encouraged not to study but rather to spend his time playing and practicing football.† Mr. Boult further claims that this was a school policy in that athletes were permitted to pass classes without doing the work.† What may have motivated this lawsuit is the fact that Marietta Valley High School expelled Mr. Boult in December of last year, which ďcoincidentlyĒ came just after the end of the last football season for which he was eligible.† The reason for the expulsion was that he could not maintain a 1.5 or higher grade point average which is a prerequisite for attending school.
Did you know that Mr. Boult has actually found a potential legal leg to stand on?† It is the equal education clause of the State Constitution.† Mr. Boult claims that the school violated this section by encouraging athletics over academics.† Mr. Boult has not only sued the high school but the school district as well, and his football coach for good measure.† The claim against his coach is that the coach should have known that athletes were being passed through whether they deserved to be passed through or not.† Coach Clark is also accused of influencing teachers to help Mr. Boult when his grades were not cutting it.
Mr. Boult claims that he wanted to learn, however he became lazy because he was able to pass his classes whether or not he studied and regardless of how he did on exams.† The complaint filed against Marietta claims, amusingly enough, that Mr. Boult was ďencouraged toward laziness and slothĒ due to the ďconspiracyĒ to keep him on the football field.† He further claims that he has been denied his fundamental right of education.† Mr. Boultís mother is now seeking damages as well, as she is presently attempting to help her son obtain the education he never received.† Mr. Boultís attorney, a Mr. Weber, hopes that when enough athletes see and follow the progress of this lawsuit, they will want to join in, and this will become a class action lawsuit.† Weber acknowledges that he has never heard of a suit such as this being filed before.
Do you get the feeling that Mr. Boult wasnít the greatest athlete in the world?† If Mr. Boult were on his way to a major college football power, do you think this suit would be filed?† Of course not.† Apparently Mr. Boultís skills as a defensive tackle did not put him in demand for a college scholarship.
On the other hand, the point can be made that it is precisely athletes like Mr. Boult who need to be protected because the high schools know heís not going anywhere either at a college level or professionally, and therefore they may well be inclined to take advantage of his athletic ability and milk him for all they can while he is in high school, and subsequently drop him like a hot potato as soon as they donít need him anymore.
I donít think a lawsuit is the answer here.† What Mr. Boult is complaining about has gone on for ages.† That doesnít make it right, but I think the ideal remedy is for the athlete and his family to reject the inflated grades they are being given. I am sure this would be difficult to do but it is doable.† If you find a wallet with $1500 in it, you may want to keep it, but you turn it in.† As Mr. Boultís attorney Mr. Weber has stated, ďHe deserved to have bad grades, he didnít deserve to play football.Ē† Where was Mr. Weber during Mr. Boultís football career? †Why didnít Mr. Boult make this claim during the pendency of his high school football playing days.† I am not unsympathic to Mr. Boult who is now probably 18 years old and without a high school education; however this seems to be one of those situations where the athlete will wait and see if things work out for him and if he finds himself in demand by numerous colleges, and if it works out for him great, if not, letís sue the school.
What goes on in high school and college football from a priority standpoint is alarming.† Athletes are clearly treated preferentially and are given special privileges which is a clear indicator of what society values today.† Look at the salaries of professional athletes compared to the salaries of the high school teachers who are supposed to teach them.† This society values the athlete many times more. This lawsuit is not the answer, however; it is the system that needs to undergo a major overhaul.†
Unfortunately, I donít see that happening any time soon as sports is big business, sports means money, sports brings alumni dollars, and school pride.† It would be nice to think, however, that one day schools will go back to teaching values, the difference between right and wrong, along with reading, writing and arthmetic rather than the winning of a football game.
Dr. Charles J. Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth.† Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly column on legal and psychological issues.