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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Coach's "Crybaby Award" May Cost Him Job: A junior high basketball coach is in trouble over a "Crybaby Award" he gave one of his players at the end-of year banquet, but the school may face legal hurdles if it attempts to fire him. The coach awarded a 13 year-old player the award because he always begged to get into games and "whined" a lot. The player was called up to stage and presented the award in front of all of his teammates and guests at the end-of-year banquet.

The school board voted yesterday to fire the coach, but the board's own attorney said that the move may not be legal. Board policies dictate that only the superintendent can make hiring and firing decisions. In addition, the collective bargaining agreement with the local teacher's union allows some rights before termination, including a due process right to a hearing.

I have a few thoughts on this. One, the coach was wrong, not just for giving the award, but for not having any common sense. The player was thirteen, and all he wanted to do was get in the game. Sure, I bet he whined a little bit, but honestly, what 13 year-old doesn't? He was enthusiastic about getting in the game and you cannot fault a player for that. By mocking this desire, the coach was sending a bad message to his team.

But as dumb and insensitive as this was, should this really cost the man his job? Apparently, he has been a very good teacher the past three years. In addition, he teaches special education, an area in which it must be difficult to find good teachers. The president of the teacher's union summed it up nicely:

    "Nobody should have a promising teaching career shot down by an obvious bad taste of judgment. To go as far as they're going? That's unconscionable," said Hovey, president of the Pleasantville Education Association.

The coach should be reprimanded, and probably prevented from coaching, at least for next year. But firing him is a knee-jerk reaction that represents society's overly-sensitive nature. I am certain that this is not the worse thing ever to happen in a public school. In fact, I was embarrassed in a similar way by a teacher in middle school (not with a "crybaby" award, but something somewhat analogous) Yeah, it upset me at the time, but the teacher was a good man that made a mistake. If we fired everyone that had a lapse in judgment, unemployment lines would be pretty long.


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