Having all the facts and pertinent information is important when decisions must be made, especially when punishments are involved.
That’s certainly true in court proceedings. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. officials thought it important, too, as they handled a verbal and physical altercation between two football coaches.
The incident involved Columbus North head coach Tim Bless and North offensive line coach Aaron Karrer. Early in the second quarter of the Oct. 13 varsity game at Southport High School, North missed a field goal. The altercation occurred after that, with comments made back and forth between the coaches, including profanity, until the situation escalated to where it became physical.
North and district officials initially reviewed the evidence they could collect, and on the morning of Oct. 17 announced suspensions for both Bless and Karrer for the team’s Oct. 27 sectional football game. Bless also would be prohibited from football team activities that week.
However, photos of the altercation came to light that day after the suspensions were announced and were published in the Oct. 18 edition of The Republic. Photos of Bless and Karrer, captured by a photographer who was covering the game for The Republic, show the two coaches in each others’ faces and with their hands on each other’s upper bodies.
The images of the incident prompted five school officials — Superintendent Jim Roberts, North Principal David Clark, North Athletics Director Jeff Hester, Director of Secondary Education Bill Jensen and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Teresa Heiny — to meet and consider the photographic evidence and determine whether the initial punishments were appropriate. Discussions on Oct. 19 and 20 led to a decision to increase the punishment for Bless and add requirements for both coaches.
Bless was suspended from coaching during games for the remainder of the season. Also, a support plan was created and implemented for each coach that includes personal and professional requirements that will be monitored on a bi-weekly basis. The mandatory support plan for both coaches is a good way to ensure that such missteps don’t happen again.
Punishments were limited to their coaching roles and not their educational duties because the incident occurred during an extracurricular activity. Bless is a health and physical education teacher and assistant athletics director, and Karrer is a dean of students.
The school officials did the right thing by taking the additional step of reviewing the photographs. Without them, they were making a decision based on an incomplete picture of what transpired.
Since the incident involved two authority figures, the school officials’ final decision set a tone for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior for school personnel and students.