Public League Closings Gain Local Steam

Morrissey Tribune column criticizes administrators' new closed-door policy

Last week, when the news broke that Chicago Public Schools would be moving every basketball game to 4 p.m., closing their gyms to opposing fans, and in some cases preventing anyone from attending, it seemed like one of those issues that either becomes a local flashpoint or that goes away quickly. It either causes widespread outrage, or it fades quickly, those affected simply dealing with the new rules and moving on.

If high-profile Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey is any indication, the Public League closings have some life in them yet. Morrissey criticizes the new policy today, invoking Barack Obama and the spirit of high school athletics, concluding that the policy robs players of the high school basketball experience -- the crowd, your parents in the stands, the friendly rivalry created by familiarity.

Of course, the players are one issue, but what about students? They're losing out too. In low-income neighborhoods and at troubled schools, athletics are a refuge, a way for teachers and administators to keep kids in a controlled, safe environment for a few hours longer than usual. What about the kids who could use those games to hang out with their friends in a supervised place? Where do they go now? And what about those kids' parents? Don't they have the right to see their kids play basketball? Are they to be punished too?

It's idealistic, sure, and we admit we wouldn't want to be in Public League director Calvin Davis' shoes, but Morrissey is right -- there are better ways to handle a small, violent minoirty than by punishing the majority. It doesn't solve the problem; it simply moves it off school grounds.We can do better.

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