Anonymous Op-Ed about Maryland School for the Deaf Athletic Program
This is an anonymous op-ed from a member of the Deaf community.
There have been multiple complaints from Deaf schools and administrators over the past 20 years about Maryland School for the Deaf not trying to create or honor an even playing field.
National Deaf tournaments were established to create opportunities for sister schools across the country. Schools play under varying state athletic associations. Some schools are full members and others can police themselves with their own rules. If schools are not willing to create fair play in a healthy competition, should they continue?
What is more important, to create an atmosphere of fair play and healthy competition, or to win at all costs? There should be good faith and spirit that all participants are following similar if not 100% exact rules with each other.
Here are some examples of actions by the Maryland School for the Deaf that might be unethical and in violation of the spirit of fair competition among Deaf national tournaments and games between each other.
MSD once had a transfer student who was removed from his previous school for illegal activities. The student was able to immediately participate in a MSD team and compete in a national tournament, which meant he got away from his consequences at another school. Most, if not all, states would not allow this.
This is just one of the many examples and there have been many more examples not mentioned.
There appears to be a major lack of institutional control at MSD. Apparently very little has been done to curb those unfair play and practices.
Some schools have forced MSD to sit out their 5th year players in single games. A very recent example of this is the MSD football team sitting out a 5th year player in a football game they lost against the Texas School for the Deaf because Texas athletic regulations did not allow 5th year players. They did so but they still did not agree or was able to see that sitting out the 5th year player was right even if their opponent could not have any 5th player. How can they not agree that it’s the right thing to do. Is it fair if one school can use and play their 5th year players while their opponent can’t?
Most schools have a 2.0 GPA minimum, but MSD, one of the top Academic Bowl teams, have reduced it to 1.75.
MSD is an approved non-member of their state athletic association, the MPSSAA. If they are not a full member, what rules are they following? Who is overseeing the transfers and eligibility of their student-athletes?
We understand MSD’s position in not wanting to be full members of the MPSSAA because they want to be able to travel more than 300 miles. If they are not full members, what rules are they following?
There has been no transparency of their practices and rules, which has created a strong mistrust among many other Deaf schools. Most Deaf schools can see what other states’ rules are and know that they are following them or have a system in place to report any possible infractions. There is apparently an unclear system or none at MSD.
Most if not all schools have some governing body overseeing them and their policies other than their own staff or self appointed board members.
Mr. James Tucker, the MSD Superintendent, said in a vlog that there are many students who transfer to different schools in America. Everyone is aware of that, but the question is how do they transfer? Are they persuaded, recruited to leave, or was there any undue influence? Are any athletics staff or coaches from the school involved in recruiting students? Are the athletics staff asking other people to persuade and recruit on their behalf?
Mr. Tucker has turned a blind eye on the truth on their own recruiting practices and process.
MSD does have a strong athletic program that they have built over the years, but no one can have a strong program without recruiting and having good skilled players. If MSD is the only one policing themselves, then it’s possible that they have actively recruited as many athletes as possible from other deaf schools and continue to win without having a formal system in place to create the integrity of high school sports.
It is arrogant for Mr. Tucker to apologize for running up the score and not opening up their program to outside schools. It totally misses the point.
Should Mr. Tucker’s schools show all other deaf schools on how to recruit students from other Deaf schools to build their athletic program?
Before MSD can try to excuse themselves or apologize, they should take a hard look at themselves and acknowledge the truth, their undue influence on transfers, and lack of fair play. They need to look at what kind of rules their sister schools are following and compare it with theirs and create a more healthy and fair competition among all schools, not just the Big 6 or whatever they call it.
The SpikeOut situation is a result of 20 years of frustration that fell on the volleyball team, not just one incident. That one incident alone would not have caused all this to happen. They are missing the whole point.
Let the healing and truth begin for Deaf America and create healthier and fair play for all Deaf Schools in America in the future and let the best team play and win in a more just environment with outstanding sportsmanship and mutual respect among all.
We are so small and can not afford to be divided. We cannot afford to continue an unhealthy environment with different rules. No one wins when rules are different regardless of how small or big the rules are.