Monday, February 4, 2019

Covington Catholic Pro-Life MAGA Boys: A Canadian Catholic Educator's Perspective

Before we let the discussion of the Covington Catholic pro-life MAGA boys recede forever as new brouhahas (the latest in the U.S.: Virginia governor Ralph Northam's racist pictures from back when, and his disgraceful reaction to their discovery), I wanted to share some valuable commentary a reader of Bilgrimage sent me soon after the Covington Catholic pro-life MAGA boys' story broke. I've been exchanging emails with this good reader of this blog, and he has sent me several pieces of commentary that I'm weaving together here, with his permission, as a guest posting. Part of what makes the commentary valuable is that this is a Canadian reader of Bilgrimage, offering one Canadian Catholic's perspective on this story.

Paul2port writes, "You raise so many questions. May I help?" Then as a centerpiece of his argument he adds,

As a Canadian I am inclined to think that the wearing of the MAGA hat is not simply support for the President. It has symbolic value that identifies the wearer as one who provokes confrontation. I've read some Americans consider it to be the Swastika of our day. I just don't know because I'm not there. 

Paul2port continues,

I'm very sorry that this type of issue needs to be addressed. However, for most of the 30 years I taught in a management program at a college in Canada, I taught "Sport and the Law". Among other issues we addressed were those of harassment, participant behavior, policy regarding conduct, sanctioning body regulation and human rights laws. If you like I can give you my three hour presentation on "Hooliganism in Soccer" complete with Powerpoint slides. And I graduated from a Catholic high school.

I'll add that I have personally accompanied students on many field trips and that over my career I managed many sport related events. I've worked as an official at the Olympic Games, as a manager of events from the national level on down. Most of my family members are teachers, so we're all very well aware of what can go wrong on school outings.

Covington Catholic has a systemic racism problem. I don't know Kentucky or Cincinnati culture but I do know racism. What does this compilation video,* which appears on the school's YouTube page, say about their seemingly unaware racism? Check the start of the video showing fans at a basketball game. Note around 16 seconds into the video that you can count about 5 fans in blackface in the front rows. (Although some have commented that it isn't blackface if the whole body is painted.) WTF?

Here are some photos taken at Covington's home games some time in the last 7 years. Dates are being checked and the top photo seems to be from 2011 although it is attributed to 2015. Once again note the number of students in blackface.

I don't know about the Covington Catholic dress and conduct code but it would be highly unusual for a school not to have one. School uniforms do not include the MAGA hat. But being out of uniform is a minor offence. The guy who stripped down was out of uniform too. Who allowed it? The Diocese has condemned the behavior, as has the Mayor and officials from the State of Kentucky. Then the public relations campaign began. But those are the most minor transgressions. One thing for sure, those students now exemplify the worst of America at this time and in that place.

I would, if the school hadn't taken down all their media, point out and link their school's mission, their student code of conduct, and other documents which require the school to punish the students for their disgusting behavior. The many violations of standard expectations should lead to the resignation of the principal and/or firing of school staff.

Jeanne Mancini, organizer of the March for Life has stated" "The March for Life is nonpartisan, or bipartisan, we're also nonsectarian, we always try to get people from both sides of the political aisle to speak at the March for Life." She adds that this is not always an easy task. So, according to the organizer, the hats would not be in keeping with the goal of the event.

Covington Catholic should be permitted no excuses. Their school is required to live up to the expectations of the Church and the laws of the State.

Questions we have a right to ask: What is expected of the followers of Christ? How do a school, the teachers and parents help with the moral formation of students? The organizers of the field trip to the March for Life probably expected the experience to help the adolescent students develop their moral conscience.

The student behavior was appalling. The group caught on video screaming "sluts" is worthy of expulsion. The guy telling the "if she likes it, it isn't rape" joke while in school uniform isn't following the example of Christ and completely negates any possible justification for him marching for "Right to Life". He should be expelled on a morality clause.

The behavior of this group in their encounter with Elder Nathan Phillips was downright disgusting. WWJD? It wasn't just one smirky teen. It was two busloads at least, who created an abusive hostile environment. Turn the other cheek? Get on the bus? Love thy neighbor? Every single one of those students should be subject to the maximum punishment available to the school administration. And I'm not talking about saying three "Hail Marys".

Covington and their students are subject to the authority of the State of Kentucky, whose Department of Education policy says that to ensure "safe and orderly" campuses and activities for their students certain standards are expected. The State of Kentucky, through its Education Department, requires "safe and orderly" campuses and activities for their students:

KRS 158.148 
(1)(a) As used in this section, "bullying" means any unwanted verbal, physical, or
social behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated:  
1. That occurs on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event; or  
2. That disrupts the education process.  ...
Harassment/Discrimination is unlawful behavior based on race, color, national origin, age, religion, sex or disability that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it adversely affects a student's education or creates a hostile or abusive educational environment.

The policy respects civil dialog. Listen, the policy isn't perfect, but it is damn good and comprehensive. It isn't as comprehensive as Canadian and provincial law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, etc., but it isn't horrible.

Even at the secular University of Kentucky, the Code of Student Conduct dictates, under a heading, "Being in the Presence of Code Violations," the following:

In some circumstances, a Student who is present while other Students violate the Code and does not report the violation may also be charged with a Code violation.

During my 30-year career in education, supervising field trips, managing events, and training young people for leadership roles, I have seen very few cases of such horrible student conduct.

These students are in desperate need of understanding that even those who stood by and did nothing may be in violation of the student code. It is a fundamental Catholic teaching that one can sin by acts of commission and omission.

Finally, the parents who failed to recognize their sons' behavior as abhorrent show they really weren't paying for exemplary Catholic education. It is much more likely they shopped for an exclusive, not inclusive, segregated education for their sons. Shame on Covington and the Catholic Church for providing it.

* The video link Paul2port provided here points to a video that has now been taken down, according to the YouTube page that comes up when one clicks the link. This YouTube link appears to offer viewers the now-deleted video; its uploader, marcushl, notes that he/she is re-uploading the deleted video for educational purposes.

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