IRON RIVER—The committee formed to look at West Iron County’s athletic code after the pink hair controversy in late March made its report during the School Board meeting May 19.
Its main recommendation: better communications, specifically a written set of rules and expectations that coaches can give to players and their parents.
If the current policies had been communicated to students and parents better before the recent incident, the report seemed to say, everybody would have been spared a lot of drama.
Mike Dallavalle, a former West Iron coach who chaired the committee, said the group met twice for about an hour. The main focus, he said, was to see if changes need to be made to the policy regarding grooming and appearance. “We tried to stay on that path during those two meetings,” he told the board.
One part was reviewing policies used by other school districts. They found West Iron’s policy is “pretty much in line” wth the others. Many, he said, are “very broad and open to interpretation.” Some are strict about certain things, such as the length and thickness of sideburns.
“We were in agreement,” Dallavalle said, “that our athletes are the ambassadors for our school when they attend athletic events. They should maintain a neatly groomed appearance and avoid drawing individual attention to themselves in the spirit of team unity.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s rules for track talk about “adornment” by athletes. “If you look up ‘adornment,’” Dallavalle said, “you could interpret it any number of ways. It has to do with dressing up your appearance.”
The MHSAA rules deal with tattoos and piercings. “If I would have looked at ‘adornment’ and thought of hair color, I would have included it there,” he said. “But the MHSAA said for track, that is not a rule.
“For something like basketball, it’s different—there are situations where hair dye has run off of a student sweating, and that player had to be removed from the game.”
Because of the differences between sports, the group concluded coaches should have the right to set their own expectations and rules. Different coaches look at the question different ways.
One change that should be made, Dallavalle said, is that each coach should state their expectations and rules to students in writing during the pre-season parent-player meeting, so there won’t be any confusion. Board members suggested that parents and players should sign off on it.
Also, he said, the athletic policy should specify that each coach has the right to set their own rules for that sport, in accordance with MHSAA guidelines and West Iron’s athletic code of conduct—they may or may not be stricter than the MHSAA or WIC minimal standards. Dallavalle said each set of rules should be reviewed by the athletic director to make sure it is within guidelines.
That was one of the causes of this year’s problem: a coaching change at the start of track season. “There was a lot of miscommunication that went on early in the season,” Dallavalle said.
What about special cases, when a team wants to do something different to make a statement as a group? Dallavalle said that should be left to the coach’s discretion. “I don’t think any coach in this district is going to say no for one event. That’s showing team unity if they can all do it together for a cause.”
Board members tabled the matter to allow its committee to review the proposed policy changes. They could be adopted at the board’s June 23 meeting.
“It was a very positive meeting,” said Dallavalle. “We had a lot of good input.”
• Maggie Scheffer gave the board an update on the outdoor classroom she had first proposed last spring. After the board approved the plan, the northeastern corner of the Stambaugh school campus, north of the playground was cleaned up last summer, with dead shrubs removed.
The outdoor classroom is proposed for science classes and environmental education.
Scheffer said her group started working recently on grant applications to raise money for construction. The group asked the board to contribute towards construction costs, “so we can get the work started this summer, as we secure other funding to continue until it is completed.”
She did not suggest a dollar amount, and Superintendent Chris Thomson said he needs more information before asking the board to contribute. He also wants to see whether the project would be eligible for sinking fund money. “We have to mesh it with what available funds we have,” Thomson said. “The more details we have, the more we can ask to see if it fits.”
Rob Possanza, who chairs the business committee, said he wants to see the project’s total cost, grant applications and whether in-kind help would be available.By Peter Nocerini