School Sports NL needs to be regulated, says student athlete
In the year 2012 in a democratic society, should all individuals have equal rights? Do these rights include students as well as adults? Does everyone in society today have the right to know what they are accused of, the right to know who is accusing them of wrongdoing, the right to face their accuser and the right to due process? Basically, does a student have the right to have their side of a story heard?
School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador (SSNL) certainly as a group of adults have proven that young athletes in our province have no rights and especially the right to due process. Individuals who are connected to this group can manipulate a situation so that a young athlete is accused, without his knowledge, discussed without being present or have an adult representative, and have sanctions put in place without any means to defend himself or herself.
SSNL, depending on the person making a complaint to their executive director, will overlook the procedures and guidelines in their own handbook to assist an adult in manipulating a situation in order to gain an advantage over an individual player and therefore an opposing team.
Rules such as, “A ruling by the protest committee must be made before the next scheduled game involving either team involved in a protest,” can just be ignored. A well-connected individual can ignore the 20 minutes after a game time limit to put in a written protest and submit the protest seven hours after the game.
SSNL directors and executive are a group of “volunteer” teachers who are financially supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. They also have an executive director and two office personnel, all of whom are paid by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. None of these individuals are accountable to the minister or the deputy ministers of that department. Nor are the teachers accountable to the Department of Education. Therefore, there is no one at the government level to make sure that this group of individuals give young athletes due process.
SSNL has no higher power to regulate their actions. They can act as their own judge and jury. An athlete in Newfoundland and Labrador is powerless to have their voice heard against this group of individuals.
Any individual in our province can request, under the Access to Information and Privacy Act, a copy of any information that has been sent or received through a government or public server about themselves. SSNL is in such a position of power that they are saying that emails from their members or connected to their members are the “property of School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador, and accordingly, the documents are not in the custody or control of that school district.”
So, as a young athlete, you have no rights, even those guaranteed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Adults behind your back in meetings or through emails can say whatever they want about you and you don’t have the right to know. Your reputation, your future can be manipulated by individuals who are basing your character on an individual’s interpretation of 60 seconds of your life in a game situation.
According to the SSNL Handbook, “School Sports was founded on the belief that school athletics made an important contribution to the goals of education and as such was an integral part of the total educational process. It is education through sport.”
SSNL has taught me that as a young athlete I have no rights. I do not have the right to be heard. I do not have the right to defend myself and I do not have the right to know what a group of adults are actually saying about me.
SSNL does give young athletes one right. You have the right to take an injustice to the Supreme Court. So, unless you are rich in Newfoundland and Labrador as a high school athlete, you have no rights.
This situation should not exist in our society. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, everyone should be guaranteed the right to due process.
As a democratic society our provincial government should regulate all groups so that every individual has their rights protected. SSNL, especially, should be reviewed and made accountable to some government department so that these individuals no longer have the power to ignore the rights of young athletes in our province.
Zachary Quinlan is a Level III student at Carbonear Collegiate, and resides in Harbour Grace. He was one of three individuals — two student athletes and their coach — who were sanctioned by School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador (SSNL) following an incident at the provincial AAA soccer championships in St. Lawrence last fall. He wrote this commentary in March as part of a language assignment, and The Compass has agreed to reprint it.