Leading off today:
Bullying. It's a nasty, disgusting act.
You know what's worse, though? Going into complete panic mode and reacting without adequate investigation of the facts because someone has hurled the "B" word into an accusation made in a public forum.
That was one of the running themes Monday night as 10 community members poured their hearts out in defense of Kerry Bennett, who was fired earlier this month after four NYSPHSAA softball championships and more than 600 victories on the diamond.
Speaker after speaker (watch the recording of the meeting here) implored members of the school board to reconsider the decision to fire Bennett amid allegations at a previous board meeting by a disgruntled parent that the coach created an environment that allowed and possibly even encouraged the bullying of that man's daughter after her decision to abandon the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team before the state championship game in June to attend the senior ball.
If C-NS has a zero-tolerance policy against bullying, as was stated by a board member before an overflow audience, that's fine. At this moment, though, there is no credible evidence publicly uncovered to suggest Bennett committed or condoned bullying, and several speakers specifically refuted the existing hearsay.
The 10 speakers, the maximum allowed by the board, had no sway last night. After their at-times emotional defense of Bennett, the board president announced that there would be no further discussion of the matter by district officials, the decision to dismiss Bennett would stand and it was time to move on to other matters on the agenda.
That brought about jeering and shouted questions from the crowd. At that point, spectators were warned by board President Pat V. Carbone that they would be ejected if they did not pipe down.
I wouldn't go so far as to term that to be "bullying," but it was damn close.
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What we witnessed last night contributes to suspicions that one person can't bring down the career of a veteran educator, but he/she can certainly get the ball rolling for a willing school board.
I do not know Kerry Bennett, the deposed C-NS coach, so I would not presume to speak in his defense beyond what I've noted this month: Even if the acts in question met the definition of bullying and merited action under the zero-tolerance policy, there's no publicly known corroboration to support one father's suggestion that Bennett was culpable.
The school board may have obtained indisputable evidence to the contrary, and of course the taxpayers will never be allowed to see it. More likely, though, the board simply caved. More than one speaker suggested that the fact that Bennett's varsity assistants and players were not interviewed during the investigation said as much.
I hope that's not the case here. But given the recent ruckus in the football program, evidence suggests they're susceptible to external influence.
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Lather, rinse, repeat.
Besides being the operating instructions on a bottle of shampoo, those words represent the reality in high school sports. Good people get whacked all the time. I've probably reported on or read about 75 such incidents
across the state over three decades of covering schools.
Rich Miles, who had the audacity to try benching a player for violation of team rules, represents the past. He