by The Dig Staff
Last year, Dig editor Thomas Hochman opened the school year with an article on the turmoil that plagued the upper school during the 2015-2016 school year, referencing the lack of communication between the student body and the administration.
He also elaborated on the steps OES would take during the 2016-2017 school year to increase student awareness surrounding issues such as relationships, academic dishonesty, harassment, and most importantly, drugs and alcohol.
That same year, Policy Board made an attempt to increase student awareness on the rules of OES. Previously, the OES rules and student expectations resided in a digital handbook on the OES Website. Albeit very accessible, the online handbook was often unread by students.
This allowed for a knowledge gap between students and administrators and led to ever-increasing confusion over exact rules and consequences. Noting the difficulty and inaccessibility of the handbook, Policy Board spoke during class meetings to different grades about all of OES’ policies, specifically the OES Alcohol and Other Drug Use Policy. Policy Board created yellow slips that were passed out to students which clearly stated the Drug & Alcohol rules, consequences, and amnesty policy. The yellow slips were aimed at making OES a safer and more conscious community, and helped OES Students fully understand the expectations they are held to.
After the increased efforts of Policy Board, the rules and expectations to OES seemed clear – however an off-campus party in the spring with attendees from many sports teams raised questions about the expectations OES Athletics holds their athletes to an independent set of expectations to those provided by the OES Upper School administration.
There was a rule in the OES Student Athlete Handbook stating that students athletes who verifiably used substances such as nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs, were subject to up to a 2 game suspension on first offense. Again, the rules which applied to student athletes were crystal clear, however many were unaware to the different set of standards which apply to OES athletes.
Girls lacrosse captain Alma N. stated that she “had no idea” a separate rule existed for student athletes, and her sentiments were largely echoed by the OES athletic community.
OES Athletic Directors Dennis Sullivan and Missy Smith saw the lack of communication between the athletic department and the students as an opportunity for improvement, and created the OES Student Athlete Pledge, which is required for athletes to sign before their sports season commences.
The new Student Athlete Pledge has created an increased awareness within the athletic community surrounding expectations about drugs and alcohol. Two-sport varsity athlete Colby B. noted that “The pledge highlights the accountability of being a student athlete at OES”.
Furthermore, members of student government approve of the Athletic Department’s recent decision to raise awareness. Junior Policy Board Representative Simon H. added that the student athlete is “a leader that many people look up to, and must demonstrate a high level of integrity”. Student athletes have the power to set an example for the rest of the student body, and the pledge communicates that perfectly.
To look at the issue of student drug and alcohol abuse through a larger lens, we can shift our focus to an event that occurred in Washington County, Arkansas. NCAA Football star and Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield was arrested on public intoxication and fleeing charges. According to police reports, Mayfield was incapable of walking straight and attempted to flee the scene when asked for a statement by officers on scene. The video of his attempted escape became an internet sensation in no time. Mayfield pleaded not guilty to the charges, and reached a $480 plea deal. Although Mayfield was not suspended for any games or practice by the University of Oklahoma, he was subject to participation in an alcohol education service, and thirty-five hours of community service.
Immediately following his arrest Mayfield issued a thoughtful apology on Twitter. In the apology, Mayfield acknowledged that he was conducting himself in a manner that “does not correctly represent the way that the University of Oklahoma should be represented”.
Mayfield demonstrated and acknowledged that the student athlete can represent more than just themselves or their sports team, but instead represents the school they attend.
The Student Athlete Pledge enforces that athletes represent OES even when they are not on campus or at school related events, and are held to a higher standard than the normal OES student.