Back in 1939 my mother — then a junior at Lincoln High of Lincoln in Placer County — and several of her friends decided to cut school and head out to a swimming hole near Bear River.
When they got there, they were startled to see “Old Man Lee” — the moniker students hung on Principal Richard Lee back then — nonchalantly sitting on a rock with a fishing pole while wearing a suit.
“Good morning, what are you girls up to today?” was the first words my mom said Mr. Lee uttered.
I always thought my mom was pulling my leg until I brought it up to Mr. Lee at a Lincoln Rotary meeting years later. Mr. Lee was 91 at the time.
He looked at me for a minute, cracked a smile, and told me my mother never could figure out how he knew she planned on cutting school.
“It was the grapevine,” he said.
Fast forward to the football game between East Union and Manteca High at Guss Schmeidt Field earlier this month and the decision by varsity team captains not to shake hands with their counterparts in Lancer uniforms. That was forged in their reaction to a social media posting an EU player made of a Buffalo player that graciously could be called taunting and included a slur word for gays.
Unbeknownst apparently to the captains and probably their teammates was that the school administration was well aware of the video and had taken what have been called “appropriate steps” based on its relative gravity. In other words, whatever discipline or punishment was dished out over the video was proportional to the wrong. We are not privy to what that was because it is a student matter.
That said, the captains’ punishment was fairly public given they were representing not just their team and school but Manteca Unified School District as well. As a result, they were stripped of their captain status for the following week’s playoff game.
Within minutes after a video of the non-handshake was uploaded to the Internet, students in the stands were reposting it on Twitter. The final game horn had barely gone off when district personnel that monitor social media for potential issues saw it and alerted the appropriate administrators.
Manteca Unified moved quickly behind-the-scenes to put a lid on what could easily have become an escalating tit-for-tat exchange.
Social media is the 2017 version of the grapevine, or as District Superintendent Jason Messer prefers — the backyard barbecue.
In each case — the original “dis” video and the non-handshake — came to the attention of administrators fairly quickly. And in both cases school officials took the appropriate action.
Why any of this is important for you to know is simple. Educators have adapted to the times and are still on top of bad behavior they get wind of just as Mr. Lee was on to four girls plotting to play hooky from school 78 years ago. And before anyone reacts to social media “wrongs” relating to school activities and students, the odds are not only is the school already aware of it but are also likely to already be taking appropriate steps.
The statement the captains made was kind of sacrificial and served no purpose. The affront hadn’t gone unnoticed nor unpunished.
And frankly, the most appropriate statement Manteca High teammates of the targeted players could have made was to have the class and rise above what was essentially trash talking while soundly defeating their opponents.
Winning with honor especially when you feel you are being disrespected or a teammate being taunted is an even greater achievement than winning while essentially stooping down to the level of those that are doing the taunting.
This all may seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill but football games — and all that go with them — are as much a learning experience as what goes on in the classroom.
uThe inappropriate video and the ensuing non-handshake are all teachable moments.
uTaunting — or bullying — no matter how funny it might seem, can have consequences.
uWhat you share over social media among “friends” is going to get extremely wide circulation as opposed to inappropriate comments you might make at a backyard barbecue.
uRising above the challenge of your rival doesn’t just mean prevailing in a physical sense but also from the perspective of character.
uEducators are still on top of their game when it comes to unacceptable behavior as they have changed with the times and follow required privacy laws.
And before leaving the subject, there are two other takeaways.
As adults — in this case game officials — we need to step up and reaffirm what is appropriate and what isn’t. The pre-game handshake is as much a part of the game and the values high school sports are supposed to teach as scoring a touchdown.
This is not limited to go East Union and Manteca. District officials keep a close watch on other sports rivalries that are getting a bit too much edge on them at times such as East Union and Sierra basketball and a list of other district high schools in various combos for various sports. And when appropriate, school officials take action.
All of that said, at the end of the day what matters is doing the right thing whether you are a student, an educator, or a parent.