The ill-advised cloak of secrecy

School administrators, anxious to cover up trangressions in their district, have found a BFF in the privacy act and how they interpret it.

"No comment," is a popular answer. "It's a personnel issue."

Perhaps these administrators need to recognize that by saying nothing they are casting some of their employers in a bad light, and perhaps undeservedly so.

The latest to use these tactics is Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, which has a football cooperative with Chrisman.

When rumors surfaced that Buffaloes football head coach Josh Cavanaugh had been suspended, principal Brad Russell would neither confirm nor dispute it. "I can't make a comment. It's a personnel matter," he said.

The fact that he didn't deny it certainly says something, however.

Superintendent Jean Neal said only that "an existing football coach, Jay Willaman, will take over duties Friday," when G-RF/C plays Milford/Cissna Park.

Messages left with Cavanaugh, whose team has a 4-1 season record, on Tuesday were not returned.

Without violating privacy laws by releasing specific details, doesn't the public have a right to know generally what is happening? It makes a lot of difference if an individual entrusted to work with children brought a gun or drugs onto school property as opposed to using a foul-mouthed tirade on the sidelines at a game. The latter scenario brought an end to the 22-year coaching regime of Bobby Moews at Bloomington Central Catholic earlier this season. After serving a one-game suspension for language used at a game, Moews told reporters the week of the team's fourth game that he was "retiring."

By saying nothing, people's minds run rampant. Perhaps this is a relatively minor  situation at Georgetown, but you know what happens to people who assume.

Is the suspension permanent, pending a possible firing? Is it for one game? Or for multiple games? This kind of information would help to reveal the true seriousness of the situation.

Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call for other school districts if they find themselves in a similar circumstance. It's not necessary to provide details when a transgression occurs -- and violate an individual's right to privacy -- but it's certainly within the realm of common sense to inform the public of the seriousness of the infraction, or the alleged infraction .

Was money missing from a concession stand, or was there an accusation of a student being assaulted? Is there a charge of a grade being changed to keep a student-athlete eligible? Are the police involved, or is this strictly an ongoing investigation by school personnel?

Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman may think it's doing the coach (or former coach?) a favor by refusing to be upfront, but what they end up doing is harming the reputation of a person who may deserve compassion instead of being a victim of innuendoes.

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