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RSSS appeals state’s ruling on basketball suspensions

By Dennis Davidson
dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan Salisbury School System has appealed the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s suspension of some of the students who were involved in the scuffle between the Salisbury and North Rowan boys basketball teams.

Dr. Art Paschal, RSSS’s new athletic director, confirmed that a meeting was held on Wednesday morning, and an appeal was carefully crafted and emailed to the state association.

The meeting, held at Horizons, was attended by Paschal, superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, executive director of legal services April Kuhn, public information officer Rita Foil, the two principals, Luke Brown of Salisbury and Dr. Fateama Fulmore of North Rowan, and the two athletic directors, Dale Snyder of Salisbury and North’s Ben Hampton.

Both schools received letters from the NCHSAA on Tuesday stating violations of individuals leaving the bench area to participate in a fight (contact or no contact). The penalties for the violations, in addition to individual four-game suspensions, included the loss of playoff opportunities and a $1,000 fine.

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The NCHSAA would have based its ruling on the report from the three game officials, and that led to the appeal by local administrators.

“We have appealed,” said Paschal, only in his third week on the job. “We sent a request to the commissioner (Que Tucker) of the high school association and to the executive board around lunchtime today (Wednesday). When you have a blanket suspension, you might catch who deserves the punishment, but you’ll get a lot of people who don’t deserve it as well, and that’s just not right. We presented it in the best way that we know. We had input from a lot of people, including legal advice, and tried to present it in a professional manner.

“This is not to say that we condone what took place last Friday night and we’ll hold accountable those students that deserve punishment,” continued Paschal. “But our issue is that we don’t think ejecting upwards of 20 additional players that didn’t deserve the ejection, much less the consequences, is fair.”

Paschal did not want to speculate on the odds of the appeal being granted, which could mean that the two teams may be able to participate in the state playoffs after all. Obviously, any participation in the Central Carolina Conference Tournament, which has already begun, is gone.

“I just hope that they’ll listen to our side,” Paschal added. “It’s hard to say what the decision will be. I don’t want to jinx it by saying one way or the other. We’ll just have to wait for the decision.
“But I will say that Dr. Moody is very passionate about moving forward on this matter,” he said. “It’s important to her that we do everything in our power … when innocent kids are being harmed in the process.”
Paschal, a long-time principal before retiring in 2012, has dealt with these kinds of things before and was pleased with how Friday’s outburst was managed.
“It’s really a testament to both school’s administrations, after it happened, the way it was handled,” he said. “I’m amazed that nothing else happened. Something that was out of control was quickly put under control by the people who were there in that building.”
Paschal and Snyder both confirmed that the game officials’ ejection reports had some inconsistencies, namely the ejection of two North players for leaving the bench, even though they were in the game and were leaving the court at the end of quarter, not the bench.
“The blanket ejection for everybody is unjust, in my opinion,” said Snyder. “We’re hoping to have some kind of justice on this. That is the hope.
“Some of the kids were ejected for just standing up and nothing else,” continued Snyder. “So hopefully, the state will see that it is a wrongful and excessive punishment. If the appeal doesn’t work, then at least, I hope they’ll be some language in the handbook that is cleared up because it is a gray area right now, at the end of a quarter. What are the kids supposed to do? How far (away from the bench) is too far?
Before retiring three years ago, Paschal had been principal at Reynolds, Northern Nash and West Montgomery high schools, for a total of 17 years. Prior to that, he was a teacher and coach.
Paschal replaced Dr. Stewart Hobbs on Feb. 1. “They let me settle in for two weeks before all of this happened,” said Paschal.

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