18-year-old Tyler Smith has been charged with the rape of two women. He is scheduled to face trial in December, but in the meantime is continuing to play on the football team of Hoquiam High School in Washington state. One might expect this to be yet another story of a winning football team being more important than the abuse of women. However, in this case, it is an odd technicality that is allowing Smith to stay on the team.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association oversees all high school sports for the state. The association has a code of conduct that students must adhere to, which staggeringly doesn't mention criminal activity.
In cases like this, the decision of whether to allow students to remain on athletic teams or in school lies with the local district. The Hoquiam district is employing the murky argument that because the alleged rapes happened during the summer and off-campus, they don't have the authority to punish Smith. In addition, they're leaning verily heavily on the the "innocent until proven guilty" argument while ignoring the safety of other students. As local news station King 5 reports:
Superintendent Mike Parker said the district cannot take any action against Smith because the alleged incidents happened off campus and when school was not in session.
"You are innocent until proven guilty," said Parker.
Parker said all Hoquiam athletic team members have to sign codes of conduct, but those codes expire at the end of a season or the end of a school year.
He said after this recent case, the district may make those conduct codes stay in effect as long as a student is enrolled.
Yeah, you might want to look into that.
Indeed Smith is innocent until proven guilty, but this is a high school, not a court of law. Students are suspended all the time for breaking rules that threaten the safety of other students.
According to court documents, Smith admitted one of the women was saying "no," but the detective said Smith told him he "thought she was saying no for pleasure and not to stop having sex."
Superintendent Parker insists that, "the best way to teach students is to keep them in school," so I assume Tyler Smith is undergoing English classes specifically focused on the word "no" and what exactly it means?
No one is trying to convict Smith before his day in court, but plenty of organizations have codes of conduct that suspend members while they're undergoing criminal procedures, and those rules are completely valid. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to isolate an individual who has been accused of violent crimes against young women from a campus full of young women until the situation has been sorted out.
Almost by necessity, teenagers are going to do stupid shit. Much of that stupid shit may not technically be illegal, but would still certainly call for some form of punishment. The notion that a school—an institution tasked with helping to prepare young people to be functional members of society—has no way of managing students charged with serious criminal offenses is confusing and troubling to say the least.
ABC News reports that Taylor Smith has stepped down from the football team and will not play for the rest of the year. According to his attorney, "He felt like it was a distraction for his team and the school and he didn't want that."
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