State Senator Cleo Fields sent waves through social media Monday after calling on education leaders to suspend athletic events for the fall 2020 school semester to ensure the health and safety of Louisiana’s students and athletes.
"It's such a touchy subject," said Ferriday football coach Stanley Smith. "You want to play for the kids, but you want to make sure everyone is safe also."
Vidalia High first-year head football coach Michael Norris is a big proponent of having a football season.
"There are a whole lot of young men who need football and sports more than football needs them," Norris said. "If you take this away from some of them, then they may not want to come to school. A lot of our kids need it. They need the self-discipline. And you will also be taking away the opportunity for some to get scholarships to play football in college."
"I think the politicians need to stick to politics," said Delta Charter head coach Blake Wheeler. "Leave sports to the LHSAA, head coaches and athletic directors."
In a letter sent to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Louisiana School Boards Association, Fields urges the suspension of all athletic activities that involve in-person participation by students in a group setting for the upcoming fall semester, including conditioning, practice, team meetings, and games.
"I think it can be done," Norris said, "But the LHSAA is not going to do anything until the governor does something. Leadership needs to step up and make a plan one way or the other."
Fields' letter to Sandy Holloway, BESE President, urges BESE to adopt a rule suspending all athletic activities for the fall semester at its upcoming special meeting, set for July 14, 2020 and the Senator’s letter to the Louisiana School Boards Association requests the association to reach out to all local school boards and superintendents to request that they voluntarily suspend fall athletic activities.
During the First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana State Legislature, Fields authored Senate Resolution 39 requesting BESE to adopt CDC-aligned rules to protect the health and safety of school personnel and the public at athletic activities held on school property
“Currently, BESE does not have a rule in place to protect our student athletes,” stated Fields. “I’m asking them to step up and take action to protect our children.”
Fields says that the nature of activities such as athletic practices and games requires too much close proximity to be conducted safely as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and that suspension is necessary until such time as the health and safety of student athletes can be ensured. “This is a critical issue and it is too important to leave solely up to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association,” writes Fields. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of our children is placed above any athletic endeavor at any time or place.”
"The water is so muddy," Smith said. "Everyone needs to get on the same page, get together and say we are going to do this. The season is a month away. Something needs to happen so we can move forward, even if it is delaying the season. But we will need a scrimmage or jamboree to get the players acclimated to the heat."
Wheeler said he appreciates the response the BESE board made to Fields.
"They are going to do their due diligence and at the end of the day we have have better school districts and let the LHSAA govern sports. Everything is just so confusing. I know it is tough on the kids, especially the seniors. Right now we're not even sure we'll have school."