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A disrespectful act can be a life lesson—a message from Mr. Rich

When I first saw a Facebook video showing a Herkimer football player spitting on the CVA turf field, my heart sank. I knew taxpayers, fans, and athletes would be angry and would demand this student be punished. I get that.

I am, however, an educator and wanted something more than retribution. In my daily work to build the next generation of employees, families, and community members, I’ve learned that teaching requires more than consequences.

That’s because kids do stupid things without thinking. It has always been that way. Most of us can remember poor choices we made. Hopefully, we learned from those poor decisions—and if we’re lucky—those details remain buried in the past.

It is not that way for today’s kids. When they mess up, their mistakes turn up on social media for the world to see. Posts and tweets get copied and shared, making it impossible to delete them all. What seems funny or harmless in the heat of the moment may result in a lifetime of regret thanks to the internet.

Apparently, this young man’s parents feel the same. They reached out to our school, asking to meet with school officials. In that meeting, the son candidly spoke about his actions and apologized.

I responded by sharing my belief that people make mistakes, but those mistakes don’t have to define us or our futures. What matters is how we respond to our mistakes. Will we own our mistakes and be willing to sincerely apologize? Will we learn the important lessons and work to be better people?

To his credit took the next step by writing this letter to our Central Valley community:

I deeply regret my actions on 11/1/18 and I know it effected many people besides myself. I meant nothing malicious against CVA. I was just being foolish and listening to what others told me to do. I have taken full responsibility for my actions and I have met with the CVA principal, AD, and Superintendent to apologize and clear this up. I learned a valueable lesson and have made a commitment to represent myself and my school in a more positive manner. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to use a great facility. I hope this can be forgotten and doesn’t affect future relations.

Our direct involvement ends here. I would not want another district to tell me how to handle a Central Valley student, so I will not do that to Herkimer. Any further action rests with the school and his parents.

It would have been easy to write off this young man; after all he is not “one of ours.” But the truth is, we live in a shrinking world where community extends beyond village or school district boundaries. Every child becomes “ours.” As educators, family members, neighbors, and even strangers, we all can play a role in a child’s success.

We have done our part. What happens next in this young athlete’s life is up to him. My hope is that he will grow to be strong and kind, to be someone who works hard, takes pride in himself, and cares for others.