AMA requests A-W enforce activity policy

Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

At their Jan. 14 meeting, Akron-Westfield School Board members were asked to stop student activities from infringing on Sunday and Wednesday “Church Night” times.

Akron Ministerial Association member Pastor Steve Jewett told the board that since mid-December, pastors have been voicing concerns about school activities interfering with religious programs on Wednesday nights, which is Akron-Westfield’s “Church Night.”

Akron-Westfield’s policy states “In keeping with good community relations, students’ school activities will be scheduled on Wednesday nights so that all students can be out of the building by 6 p.m. It should be the responsibility of the principal to oversee scheduling of school activities for compliance with this policy.”

In addition, the policy also prohibits any school activities on Sundays — “meetings, performances, practices, rehearsals, parties — held on or off school property under the direction of school personnel without prior approval of the administration.”

School activities have been going past the 6 p.m. Wednesday night time preventing students from getting to church activities on time. Plus, school activities resume at 7 p.m., giving just an hour for church activities, and if a church event lasts a little long, students feel pressured to leave and return to school.

To further bypass this school law, the practices and activities have “open gym” sponsors or hosts so they are not officially under the direction of a coach.

“We want to work with everybody,” said Jewett, noting the policy has been in effect for more than a decade. “We don’t schedule anything Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday so we are just asking for the Wednesday night and Sunday to be enforced — not only in the letter of the policy but also in the spirit of it. That is what we really want.”

When children are very involved in activities, “sometimes that ‘optional’ can get you sitting on the bench,” he said. “So thank you for past participation (in the policy) and we remind you, other staff and coaches that there is a letter of the law but please abide by the spirit of the law also.”

As far as the school’s stance, anything that would infringe on a Wednesday or Sunday is completely voluntary (for students to participate in) and there will not be repercussions to students who have voluntary opportunities and then do not attend,” said Briggs, informing the board he is at the school between 6 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays to communicate with students that these additional opportunities are not to interfere with church.

In addition, he does ask those who host or sponsor “open gym” times to be sure they communicate that to students or work their schedules around so students are not pulled away from a church activity to come to something at the school.

“The challenge is I don’t think we maybe do as good of a job as a school in making sure we communicate that out to the students so that if there is a conflict, a church activity comes first,” said Briggs, noting he will create a written document to present to “open gym” hosts and sponsors.

Part of the recent problems is because the state’s athletic associations opened up the summer ball seasons for pitching practices, said Briggs. This was so that pitchers would be in better condition by summer — these extra practice times would hopefully prevent pitching injuries.

“The spirit of the law is sometimes as effective as the letter of it,” said Jewett.

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