The controversy behind controversy

An FHS swimmer swims the butterfly stroke in the FHS natatorium.

Photo courtesy of Tiger Tracks Yearbook.

An FHS swimmer swims the butterfly stroke in the FHS natatorium.

I am done. I have heard and experienced my limit of controversy, knowing that it could have been avoided. After seeing our recent drama being picked up by the Indy Star and USA Today, I felt compelled to offer perspective of the situation.

My question is why do people not divert from impending disaster? A swimmer is accused of sexual harassment, a huge problem in our modern day society. Yet what does the administration, the school board and the IHSAA do? They are consistently inconsistent.

I am not taking sides on the acts and motives of the swimmer, but instead, condemning the actions taken by our school district and IHSAA.

A swimmer was suspended from school and the swim team in early December because of substantiated sexual harassment. In October, a diving coach was fired because of a lawsuit with unproven allegations that became public even though it had already been disclosed when he was hired by FHS.

In February, the HSE school board and FHS administration allowed this same swimmer, who was said to make the pool a “hostile environment”, to swim in the post-season. What happened to consistency with actions? You can fire a coach based on allegations, but you let a swimmer swim despite posing a danger to people around him.

Administration and school authorities seem to be passing the blame. In the #MeToo era, we have all witnessed sexual harassment ruin lives. We have seen it in USA Gymnastics and USA Diving, in the Hollywood media, and with some of the top business moguls in the workplace. So, I have to ask, were our leaders not thinking when they said he could swim? Did they not see the very avoidable disaster approaching?

As a sixteen year-old girl with a lot of life in front of me, I am scared of where our society is heading. I am a member of the FHS swim and dive team and have been aware of the allegations since early December. It was a taboo topic that everyone on the team knew, but no one acknowledged.

By letting the swimmer compete in the sectional and state meets, this issue was made public. It has harmed the reputations of our HSE schools and FHS, specifically, and for what? Maybe the team moved up a few spots in the state results to sixth place. Does it really matter?

The school and district allowed the athlete to swim at the cost of turmoil to the whole community. None of those involved can say that they just thought they were doing what other people told them to do. Aren’t officials supposed to reflect the needs and wants of the people they serve? Aren’t they supposed to be accountable?

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said in an interview with WTHR that he waived the practice rule for the swimmer to allow him to compete because “student and fan behavior in every aspect is the direct responsibility of the principal.” I find this quite ironic because one of the purposes of the IHSAA, as stated on their website, is that it “establishes standards for eligibility, competition and sportsmanship while providing protection against exploitation of schools or students.”

This situation was the perfect opportunity for the IHSAA to honor their mission statement by setting the standards for this swimmer’s eligibility, which would, therefore, protect the students they serve. Instead, they remained passive and tried to avoid the accountability of the situation by skirting the blame. They allowed the swimmer to swim without honoring their purpose.

The whole situation gives rise to a bigger issue. Did our administration give the athlete a pass because they believed it was right or because he is an elite swimmer?

If it is the latter, a double standard is now set in precedent by the leadership of the Fishers district and the IHSAA. Through their actions, they have expressed that you can get in trouble for your actions, but if you are a good enough athlete, the rules may not always apply. If it was only a mediocre swimmer, I wonder if the same actions would have been taken.

I want the people making the decisions regarding issues such as these to be clear-headed and thoughtful. I want them to think about how their kids would feel in the situation. I want them to know the pain that victims have endured throughout these processes, but also acknowledge the heart of the accused because sometimes things are not always what they seem.

Above all, I want our leaders to keep their top priority their top priority: our students. Rather than looking out for the teenagers they are responsible for protecting, it seems as if egos and politics continue to get in the way.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in a community where they can trust their leaders to make decisions to help and protect them. I want to be part of a community where leaders are accountable role models and consistently act with the best interest of their students in mind.