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District Developing Action Plan to Address On-Ice Violence

Paul Steinbach
Duluth

Duluth (Minn.) Public Schools officials are developing an action plan including sportsmanship expectations and a list of specific consequences for unsportsmanlike conduct following a violent on-ice incident during a hockey game last week.

In a joint statement, Denfeld High School athletic director Tom Pearson and Duluth East athletic director Shawn Roed will be working with their coaches to develop an action plan to address sportsmanship within their athletic programs following a local television news report on the incident of an East hockey player that led to a Denfeld player being diagnosed with a concussion after the game. Video shows Greyhounds defenseman Grady Downs attacking Hunters forward Cooper McClure with repeated blows to the head.

“I felt like it was very concerning and unfortunate for a wide variety of reasons — both for all the players involved, for the spectators," Duluth superintendent John Magas said, after seeing the video. "It was concerning due to the high level of action between the players and the harm caused to one individual player.”

It was the second incident of on-ice violence involving Duluth East in a week. On Feb. 2, an East player left his bench to engage in a fight during a game in Superior, Wis.

According to a press release obtained by Duluth's Fox affiliate KQDS, the action plan begins with all coaches taking part in a program called 3Dimensional Coaching, which helps coaches be proactive in their coaching, as well as provide tools to help them better handle day-to-day operations and how to be a positive influence on their players’ lives. Both athletic directors, along with others in the district, will also develop sportsmanship expectations with a list of specific consequences linked to unsportsmanlike conduct, which will be added as an addition to Minnesota State High School League guidance and the district’s already existing student code of conduct.

The district hopes to have these sportsmanship expectations included in the student handbook beginning next school year. Those expectations became a talking point since the video went public. Many, including the family of the injured player, believe the punishment they learned about did not fit the severity of what happened last Wednesday night.

Duluth school board chair Jill Lofald released this statement to KQDS: The Duluth School Board is aware of the incident of violence at the Duluth East and Denfeld hockey game this past Wednesday night. As board members and parents we do no condone any violence within our schools or in sports or activities. Unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated and we thank the referees for their job and swift action on the ice. It is important that we as a board and community reflect on what occurred and how we can improve."

KQDS’s Sam Ali spoke Friday with Jason McClure, the father of attacked player Cooper McClure. According to McClure, his son was diagnosed with a concussion and he will be going through the concussion protocol before being allowed to return to the ice. The elder McClure added that no one from the school district had contacted Cooper or anyone in the McClure family about the incident two days earlier. McClure also said that he has heard about the punishment Grady Downs received and the family is not happy with that decision.

“I think it is important though as a district to think about how can we always come together," Megas said, as reported by KQDS. "We are two separate high schools, but really when we think about our multiple high schools in the district, how are we also coming together as a community? How are we coming together as a school district in support of all of our students?”

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