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Right before the beginning of a new basketball season at Shippensburg Area High School, long time winning coach Ray Staver has retired. Staver has 445 wins in his coaching career, but what is a winning team worth. Staver is a very well respected coach and knows the game, but behind the scenes and kept quite by the Shippensburg Area High School is extreme on-going issues with bullying. All of which Staver turned a blind eye to because of a desire to win. I want to be clear that this is not all on Mr. Staver, but rather the whole administration as a whole at Shippensburg. The outrageous bullying was known and largely quietly dealt with.
Last year there were multiple incidents with a student who is now a Division I athlete. There is video evidence of this athlete pulling down the pants of another student while at an away game at James Buchanan. There are reports of this well performing athlete placing his testicals on the head of another student. This same Division I athlete also would inappropriately touch students on their backside, making sexual remarks.
Students were mocked over their religious beliefs, had their pants removed, and were placed in uncomfortable situations that were reprehensive. But, the Basketball team had a winning season.
The problem was that he was an excellent player so the minimum was done to protect students from this bullying. Remarks like “boys will be boys” and “we are having a winning season” were common place. Coach Staver did nothing to address the problem because that would mean punishing a top performing athlete on his team.
This is much bigger than just Coach Staver, it is part of an entire culture at Shippensburg High School, where bullying is accepted if you are a “winner.” A zero tolerance policy on bullying/hazing and other misconduct is not followed, rather second chance after second chance.
To their credit, work has been made to the student handbook and staff training has been put into place, which ultimately is why I feel he resigned. He does not like change and I feel didn’t agree with policies that would protect students from bullying.
Culture is a difficult thing to change and even with this resignation or retirement, the problem still exists. We have administrators who were all aware yet remained quite about the problem, and more importantly the issue is not reserved to this one former student who I used as an example. It also isn’t just a problem in one sport. There were incidents reported at a soccer camp with bullying and this is just scratching the surface.
The bullying has continued and is on-going because it has been an acceptable part of the athletics program.