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Durango basketball players suspended over behavior

Incidents in Montrose, Durango
A few Durango High School students have been in trouble lately for misbehavior at home basketball games and at other schools. Two boys basketball team members were suspended from school for three days, and one is off the team for the rest of the season.

Two Durango High School students were suspended earlier this month after reports that one boy urinated on the opponents’ drinking fountain during a game in Montrose.

In a separate incident, two student spectators were thrown out of a home basketball game last week after they held up a derogatory sign about the opposing side. Those students were not suspended because they are not subject to the athletes’ code of conduct that holds students to a higher standard, school officials said.

In the Montrose incident, the two basketball players were suspended for three days, two out-of-school and one in-school, the discipline laid out in the Athletic and Activities Code of Conduct.

“The day in school is more of a restorative-justice time, where they reflect on what they did and think about what could have been a better solution, how can they model more appropriate behavior?” said Julie Popp, Durango School District 9-R spokeswoman.

The students began their restorative-justice actions while they were still in Montrose by volunteering to clean the fountain, DHS Activities Director Dave Preszler said.

The student who was reported as urinating on the fountain also was suspended from the basketball team for the rest of the season, Popp said.

“He violated the code and voided his contract,” she said.

The other student, who was a party to the incident, received a two-game suspension, Popp said.

A district Healthy Choices Committee is revising and updating the general student code and the athletics/activities code, but proposed revisions have not been presented to the 9-R school board. The committee is hoping to prioritize intervention over punitive actions, several members said at its meeting Wednesday, but they intend to lay out clear responses to all code violations.

“It sounds like the school is dealing with it in a pretty firm and forthright manner,” said Bert Borgmann, an athletic administrator with the Colorado High School Activities Association, which oversees all the athletic leagues in the state, about the Montrose incident. “They were lucky no law enforcement was involved.”

Several apologies have been made to Montrose High, Preszler said, including one from the two students involved, another from the coach and from Preszler’s department.

The school district did not incur any financial liability, Popp said.

“We had reports, but there was no proof it actually occurred,” she said, so the district did not pay for cleaning or buy Montrose High a new drinking fountain.

In the other incident, a photo of the offensive sign about Montezuma-Cortez High School went viral on Twitter.

“Both students were ejected from the game,” Popp said, “and their parents were contacted, so they may have some consequences at home. We rely on parents to model and enforce good behavior, to help us figure out how we can work together to help students reach their better selves.”

Restorative justice is also at play in that instance, Preszler said, and the students involved have written an apology to Montezuma-Cortez High School.

“This isn’t the first time a sign like that has been brought out for a game with Cortez,” he said. “This seems to be the rivalry that brings them out because it’s almost a generational thing.”

While the longstanding rivalry does go back generations, he said, it’s really Montrose that is more of an apples-to-apples rivalry with DHS these days because they are schools of a similar size.

CHSAA has a policy about signs at games, Borgmann said.

“We ask that signs be positive for your team and avoid anything derogatory,” he said. “Since I saw it on Twitter, I already heard about the Cortez incident and how the school is dealing with it. No parent wants to see their kid doing something wholly inappropriate or illegal going viral on the Internet.”

It’s actually more effective for students to root strongly for their own teams rather than try to trash talk the opposing team, Borgmann said.

“That’s what messes with the other team and let’s your team know you’re behind them,” he said. “We’re providing educational athletics, and our purpose is to transform the lives of kids into better adults and citizens.”

The incidents come after a fall DHS athletics season that saw five members of the boys junior varsity team and seven members of the boys cross country team suspended after incidents on away-trips where they were representing Durango High School.

Preszler said neither of the most recent incidents should be used as an indictment against the whole sports program.

“This impulsive, idiotic behavior is not appropriate, and we don’t want it to define who we are,” he said. “I can’t say how disappointed we are, and how we thought we had come much further than this. It was three steps forward, and now we just went four steps back.”

abutler@durangoherald.com

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