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Communication Arts MAP Practice, 9-29-2006

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Read the following article. When you have finished reading it, do the multiple choice and constructive response questions.

Teams take aim at online taunting

Incident inspires warning to athletes

High school athletes talking trash to each other before a big game is an age-old tradition. Now school officials are worried it may be migrating into cyberspace.

Medfield athletic director Jon Kirby said that last fall a Westwood player used the Internet to threaten some of Medfield's top players. Kirby wasn't sure exactly what venue was used but said he believed it was a site that allows teens to set up personal Web pages, which viewers can then comment on.

``From my end, I took it very seriously," said Kirby. ``I don't think in this day and age you can ignore things. I was tremendously concerned and went to our administration."

Medfield posted extra police at the game, but, Kirby said, he couldn't keep the Westwood student from playing.

Westwood athletic director Karl Fogel disagreed with the characterization that his player threatened Medfield players, and said students were ``going back and forth."

Kirby said the situation turned out to be complicated. If an official heard the same words on the field, the student could be suspended from play. But it's not clear what school officials can do about communications that might be exchanged between computers in private homes, he said.

``We couldn't get much of a buzz out of the Internet issue" at the time, Kirby said. ``People didn't want to address it, so it just kind of went away."

Now, partly in response to the Medfield-Westwood incident, the schools' athletic conference will address such cyber threats at a series of preseason practice games in various fall sports starting today, according to Phil Moresi , the president of the Tri Valley League and Ashland's athletic director.

``Our general message is going to be that we, as athletic directors in the league, won't tolerate this and we will do our own suspensions as we can," he said.

Moresi, who is past president of the state athletic directors association, said he has heard of about a dozen incidents of trash talking on the Internet, but the practice is difficult to monitor.

Still, his league, which also covers Bellingham, Dover, Sherborn, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, Millis, and Norton, will at least get the conversation going before classes start by trying to educate parents and players that there are consequences if they behave inappropriately, on the field or in cyberspace.

Some schools are already trying to address the potential problem. In Bellingham, the school handbook will this year for the first time include a line on the pitfalls of questionable Internet comments.

``Student athletes will not engage in any type of communications (Internet) with other athletes or fans that provokes violence or that could be construed as taunting or harassment," states the handbook.

Bellingham athletic director Dennis Baker said the handbook calls for suspension from one or more games for players who violate the rule. Bellingham had an incident a few years ago but hasn't had any problems since, he said.

``We're going to hold them accountable," he said.

Elaine Paradis, Watertown's athletic director, said neither her school district nor its conference, the Middlesex League, have guidelines addressing rival athletes going after each other on the Internet. She believes the issue should be addressed, though she hasn't thought about exactly what form that might take, before bigger problems crop up.

``We need to be proactive," she said. ``Unfortunately, sometimes we don't address things until they are a problem. . . . Maybe we need to make a statement that now with technology so prevalent in our lives today, that this is also an area where sportsmanship has to be carried through."

Two years ago high school football players from Watertown and archrival Belmont exchanged computer comments via an ``instant messenger" program, she said. One of the Watertown players thought the exchange was getting out of hand and called police, said Paradis, and school officials held workshops for the players to discuss the problem.

She said she doesn't know of any other such cases but added, ``there probably were a lot of other incidents" that went unreported.

Paul Wetzel, spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state's ruling body for high school sports, said that although sportsmanship is a hot topic, cyber sportsmanship hasn't really received much attention.

He said perhaps schools or the MIAA should address it, but he emphasized that it's not as simple as it sounds.

``It's sort of a new thing that we need to deal with," said Wetzel. ``This may well be something we need to look into."

Four years ago , MIAA got involved when teens were posting unsportsmanlike messages to each other on an Internet message board run by a newspaper, he said.

``Both the MIAA and the schools -- we always have some difficulty in dealing with things that happen outside the school, off campus, or not during the school year," said Wetzel.

Both Medfield's Kirby and Westwood's Fogel agreed that it would be good to see the MIAA take a stand on cyber sportsmanship.

Fogel said the Westwood principal dealt with the Medfield incident by telling the players that online threats or taunts would be unacceptable and result in suspensions. Since then , there have been no problems, he said, but a statewide policy might prevent other such situations.

Kirby said last year's incident simply faded away without any action , but it could happen again, he said, and may have already without officials knowing about it.

``It turned me on my head," said Kirby of the cyber threats. When threats are written down and posted on the Internet, they get a kind of permanence that verbal comments don't, he said.

``You can't unring the bell. You can't make them take it back," he said.

1. What took place to make school officials concerned about student activity on the Internet?
A. Someone logged into porn on the school computer.
B. Students made threats against other students on websites.
C. Students were using far too much paper when they were printing out reports.
D. The Internet was being used to copy school assignments.
2. What happened four years ago that caused MIAA officials to pay attention to student Internet usage?
A. Students were posting unsportsmanlike messages on the Internet.
B. An athlete from one school threatened an athlete from another school on Instant Messenger.
C. One school posted another school's football plays on MySpace.
D. On a message board, a student claimed that cheerleaders from another school had knobby knees.
3.  What is the biggest problem facing officials who are trying to deal with student taunting on the Internet?
A. Students won't pay attention when adults try to run their lives.
B. School officials do not know enough about computers to find Internet sites, much less do anything about them.
C. The Internet is far too dangerous for students in this day and age.
D. Officials are unsure how much, if anything, they can do to regulate what students do when they are not at school.
4. Constructive response question- Describe in detail three incidents that led school officials to decide to take action against what athletes say on the Internet.