3 Lessons from Evanston High School's Handling of a Sexting Scandal
Evanston Township High School’s baseball team has been pulled from the state playoffs after it reported it did not have enough players for a full team. Most of the team members were undergoing disciplinary proceedings or suspensions when they were found circulating inappropriate images of girls from their high school. Some members of the team had been sent the images personally, but forwarding such pictures (especially when the subject is a minor) is a violation of law in most states.
As this is still a breaking story, there aren’t many more details about the incident. Whose inappropriate pictures were sent, whether there were multiple pictures involved, or even how many members of the team were involved with circulating the pictures is not known.
But even with the lack of detail, there’s still a lot to be gained by Evanston Township’s handling of the situation. It’s impossible not to compare this incident to the sports and sex-related high school scandals this year, most notably in Steubenville, Ohio, even though the crime in this case is obviously less violent. Here's what Evanston Township did right.
1. They suspended the sports program when they suspected something was wrong.
Instead of just assuming that things would work out or that they would handle the issue later or that sexting was just something that high-schoolers do, the administration took immediate action and suspended the program while the investigation was ongoing. This is the only real course of action that sends the message that the administration is taking the issue seriously.
2. They did not treat their sports teams as demi-gods.
The game the baseball team was pulled from was for the state playoffs, and the team had a chance at winning the state championship. But — and why this isn’t obvious in all cases is a mystery to me — Evanston’s administration made sure to emphasize the fact that the laws of the country take precedence over high-school sports. Being accused of a crime is a serious matter, and potential scouting opportunities or a state championship should not and do not override the importance of investigating the crime itself.
3. The administration acted as a cohesive unit.
The superintendent issued a district-wide letter, the principal launched an investigation into the matter, and the coaches and athletic directors publicly confirmed that the team would not be playing in the games. Having the entire staff on the same page upholding the same values (as opposed to the coach, say, laughing it off and promising to “take care of it") presents a solid front to the parents and media, as well as making the investigation process a lot easier.