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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

The Berkeley County School Board voted 6-1 Tuesday to prohibit parents from coaching varsity and junior varsity teams on which their children participate.

It was the first of two readings of the policy change. School board member Phillip Obie dissented.

The policy would make the high school principal responsible for coordinating volunteers to support programs. The policy says that principals "should not assign volunteer parents of student athletes ... to coaching responsibilities at the varsity or junior varsity level within the program in which their son or daughter is participating." The principal can request an exemption, however, if the parent coach is determined to be vital to the existence of the program.

According to board member Doug Cooper, the policy would affect about 26 parent volunteer coaches and, of those, about eight would likely qualify for the exemption.

The principal would submit the exemption to the district athletic director for approval.

About two dozen concerned citizens showed up at the meeting, which became raucous at times as audience members interrupted board members discussion.

Members Jim Hayes and Cooper said a lot of the dissent against the policy is due to misinformation.

"The problem I had was the amount of misinformation people were spreading in the community. There was never any intent to do away with the volunteers. I coached in this district for 12 to 15 years. Volunteers are a part of my program and the school programs. It s been very upsetting to me that so much information was put out there and some people would spread it the way it was spread," Hayes said.

Board Chair Kent Murray said the issue with parent volunteers is a district problem and a school problem, where principals have neglected to fill vacant coaching positions with staff.

"We want an employee-based coaching system, and we have to look at ourselves on what are we not doing to fill these vacancies," Murray said.

To that a person in the crowd shouted: "You can't buy books, how are you going to pay coaches?"

It was one of several times Murray had to ask the audience to allow the school board to continue discussing the matter.

"Sir, you ve had your opportunity to speak. Now allow us to make this decision in front of you," Murray said.

The tension between the board and the audience bled into tension between board members as Obie asked to see all the documents that led to the committee s decision to recommend approval of the policy.

Board member Kathy Schwalbe said they only reviewed the draft of the policy. Obie again asked to see all of the information and Murray fired back:

"Pick up a newspaper."

Obie, the dissenting vote, said the policy had served the community well for a hundred years.

"And nothing's gone wrong," he said to applause. 

At the end of the discussion, Cooper said he would like to have some of the policy's language clarified to allay any concerns. Members reminded the audience that a second reading will be needed, and that will take place likely in July.

June 25, 2014

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