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South Orangetown Schools: 'Harlem Shake' Hockey Video Violated Code of Conduct

At least 11 members of the combined Nyack-Tappan Zee ice hockey team were suspended for their part in a video posted on YouTube that school officials deemed inappropriate, leading to the team's forfeit of Sunday's playoff game against Lakeland

Nyack and South Orangetown School District officials suspended at least 11 members of the combined Nyack-Tappan Zee ice hockey team from competition for violating the squad's athletic code of conduct. 

South Orangetown School District Administration released an official statement Tuesday regarding the forfeit by the combined Nyack-Tappan Zee team of a Section 1 ice hockey playoff game Sunday against Lakeland/Panas.

"We had an investigation that involved coaches, athletic directors and administrators of both the Nyack and South Orangetown School Districts," said South Orangetown Spokeswoman B.J. Greco. "It was found that several members of the combined Nyack-Tappan Zee high school ice hockey team ahd violated the team's athletic code of conduct during their school practice.

"While not all of the kids were involved, not enough were left to put a proper number on the ice, so the game had to be forfeited."

Greco said at least 11 players were involved, leaving less than the 10 required to play. 

"This is not an entitlement for the kids," Greco said. "It is a priviledge. It was a bitter pill for them to swallow."

The action stems from a video posted by the players of a version of the "Harlem Shake" that school officials deemed inappropriate. 

Nyack-Tappan Zee had a record of 11-7-1 and had been the No. 10 seed in the Section 1 Division 1 Tournament. 

Dennis February 21, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Another lesson learned (maybe) by posting on the internet! School officials were correct and balanced with the disciplinary action they took! Dennis Hardy-Former Mayor-Village of Piermont
Anon February 21, 2013 at 01:36 AM
Barry, Why is a Code of Conduct are only enforceable if actions are clearly defined? There exists many, many codes of conduct, codes of ethics, honor codes adopted and enforced at lower schools, colleges, universities, military schools, professional organizations, licensing boards, etc. that do not clearly define each and every objectionable act. As you are probably aware to draft a code that specifies every bad act would be impossible. I know of no authority that supports your contention. And with all due respect, if find your arguments internally inconsistent. How can you argue that kids are exposed to all kinds of objectionable behaviors, yet you seem to say that there should be no censure because the exact behavior is not defined in the Code of Conduct. What kind of message does send to the kids? I guess we have different standards as what is objectionable, as well as differing parenting styles.
Andromachos February 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Bethel is not a good comparison. That was a speech at a school assembly. Neither is Frederick v Morse which should be your next line of defense. In Frederick the parade was a school sponsored event. In all of those cases, the activity was publicized in a school related forum. In this case, although the speech may have taken place in the school, but privately in a locker room not before a school sanctioned audience, it was publicized in a non school forum, YouTube. It is not the best policy to roll over and take it when the government infringes on your rights. That just gives them the impetus to do it more. Big Constitutional rules come from cases involving regular people. Miranda (your right to remain silent etc.), involved a confession by a small time crook accused of killing someone, and defended by court appointed counsel, later he was convicted of murder, not a respectable person upon whihc to found a great right. Brown v Board of Ed. involved two regular kids. No one "special". If we don't have the courage to challenge the government, even at the fringes of our rights, then the government will have no limits.
John Gromada February 21, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Apparently this did not take place on school property, according to reports.
Andromachos February 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Dear Mr. Hardy, the school had no business punishing the boys for their private speech in a not school sanctioned forum. The next time I overhear a kid at the mall who is wearing a school logo sweatshirt say something inappropriate I will report it to the School they attend. In your world that School should seek retribution for the comment by an appropriate punishment. As a former mayor and part of the authoritarian side of our system, I am sure you are frustrated when the peons fail to live up to your standards. Also, as an executive you enjoyed the power to hand out state sponsored punishment (that is what happened here by the way, state sponsored punishment). If the School wanted to act appropriately, it would, at best, report the matter to the parents of the boys to handle as they saw fit.
Andromachos February 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Thank you Mr. Gromada, for the information adding to my point.
Andromachos February 21, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Yes, Anon, it is about accountability. But who has the authority to punish here. You say the government has that right. Why? The government had no jurisdiction over what happened here. We have a Bill of Rights for a reason, and that reason is not that government is always right and never oversteps its bounds. Also, why are you afraid of lawyers? Are you afraid of other experts? Doctors, plumbers, pilots? Lawyers are people who are experts in the substance and procedure of the law. Many dislike them because they deal in conflict. Sort of like how some dislike soldiers or police for their very existence, because they represent conflict. It would be like disliking doctors because they profit off your illness.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 01:11 PM
Andromachos, The school's reach and responsibility reaches beyond the school grounds proper. As long as it was during a school related event/practice, the school is responsible for the students. My understanding that the video was taken after a team practice run by the schools at a rink secured by the schools for that purpose. Not the same as your mall scenario.
Andromachos February 21, 2013 at 01:27 PM
So then, the punishment is for dancing around, not for publishing the video, right? I am glad we are narrowing the issues. When does the government, in its ultimate wisdom, deign to grant these boys their free speech rights back. After practice? After they leave the locker room? After they leave the rink? After the school's contracted time for the rink ends?
mom of three February 21, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Maybe the parent who reported the video to the powers that be should of kept their mouth shut.
Klyons February 21, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Did you happen to look up Harlem Shake on YouTube? Everybody and their mother is posting renditions of it.. I really think people should focus their attentions on making sure their kids stay out of trouble (legally).. In my eyes, no harm no foul..
mary February 21, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Totally agree - mom of three. Maybe the parents who reported it and thinkthe punishment fits the crime - should sit in the Orangetown Parking Lot - where The Post Office is and Tip Top, and next to the Chinese Restaurant - maybe then they will see there are much bigger problems that need to be dealt with. Drugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!Drugs!!!!!!!!!!! Much more dangerous than dancing.
Tammy Kay Kuiper February 21, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Andromacho, for you to say "why are you afraid of lawyers?" you must be one. It's because these "experts in the substance and procedure of the law" are more known for using their knowledge for their own profit, irregardless of harm it causes or if it defies common sense or decency, rather than for educating or seeking justice for justice sake. Maybe you are one of the honest lawyers, I have met and dealt with some of them, but the 'ambulance chaser' types are what most people are most familiar with. As a taxpayer when I hear the word lawyer brought up in association with this mess I think of civil suits brought by every member of the hockey team seeking damages for not playing in the playoffs and for violating their human rights. These municipal suit settlements are typically not small. These suits would cost the people of Orangetown, including those that knew nothing about this and those that completely disagree with what was done, for years to come at least in lawyer and court costs if not in settlements. By the way I do fear plumbers, doctors and police because they are not all honest or perfect and their motives or mistakes are expensive when they involve you.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Many of you are still missing the point. . The Code of Conduct ("CC") is what gives the Administration the right to take action and I am in no way saying CC are impudent. But what I have said is that there are some items governed under such CCs that are clearly defined such as no smoking, drinking, or, causing damage, while others are less clearly defined and require judgment to determine if some action was wrong and how wrong it was and what is the appropriate reaction, such as bullying, or behavior not becoming of a student athlete etc. (by the way I am not saying bullying is OK but we must make a determination if bullying occurred or not and how severe it was) A teen who plays a team sport is capable of knowing if they are doing clearly stated misdeeds,e.g. either they smoked or didn't so no determination or interpretation is required. However, in the case of unbecoming behavior that is clearly a judgment call and teenagers do not have fully developed brains yet and are not always as capable of making such determinations especially with regard to someone else's (adult) standards.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Therefore judgment must be exercised by those in a position to decide what should be done. with regard to this that I say that the Administration failed miserably. Right here we have many adults arguing whether or not what the kids did was wrong or not, and if wrong, how wrong and what the punishment if any is justified should be. If we can't agree why is it that we are holding children to a higher standard than ourselves. That is the ultimate hypocrisy!! Dr. Mitchell has displayed poor judgment in the past as far as I am concerned when after suspending players on a team he coached he decided to put the remaining vastly overwhelmed players against a tremendously superior team and ended up losing 20-0 enduring humiliation they did not deserve to experience. Now I know some of you will say I am being a hypocrite saying in one case it is ok to have the players play and in another case it is not. WRONG so Please read on.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 03:02 PM
The bad judgement Dr. Mitchell displayed when a hockey coach was the decision to play the game when he knew his team, including JV players who did not earn the right to play in a playoff game was not even competitive and should not have been in the playoff as the team was structured following the suspension. I am not criticizing his decision to suspend as their behavior was clearly definable. For the current situation I am criticizing his decision to suspend as the punishment did not fit the misdeed and action was taken too quickly and severely. So no I am not being hypocrite and in fact am being quite consistent. And for the person who's tagline does not warrant repeating here that I am too lengthy in response, that illustrates another problem. These are important issues that need to be vetted and discussed and the sound byte approach utilized by some people like Joe the Plumber is not an effective way to resolve these issues.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Andromachos, In my opinion, Bethel is right on point. In that case the Supreme Court held that "the First Amendment did not prevent the School District from disciplining respondent for giving the offensively lewd and indecent speech in assembly". The Court further went on to hold that "the use of offensive form of expression may not be prohibited to adults making what the speaker considers a political point, but it does not follow that the same latitude must be permitted to children in a public school. It is a highly appropriate function of public school education to prohibit the use of vulger and offensive terms in public discourse." The Court went on to further hold that a school's disciplinary rules need not be as detailed as criminal codes. I don't see how this case is distinguishable. BTW, I don't fear lawyers. I've been a member of the NYS Bar for 25 years.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 05:04 PM
The issues have been and remain the breach of the Code of Conduct. The School District's responsibility for students off school grounds ends when they are picked up by the student's parents, whether thats at the off-site location or from school.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Anon, You still don't get the point I am trying to make. So tell me, where exactly in the Code of Conduct does it specifically state that "students may not upload videos of themselves dancing the Harlem Shake"? For it such words are not in the Code of Conduct it has no bite and whether or not the kids violated the Code becomes a matter of interpretation. Given that all we adults can't agree on whether it was a violation, HOW DARE YOU OR ANYONE ELSE, INCLUDING THE FORMER MAYOR OF PIERMONT CLAIM THAT THE KIDS DESERVE THE PUNISHMENT THEY RECEIVED?? We can't even decide if it was a punishable offense because it's a very judgmental call. To say that teenagers can make that call and hold them to a higher standard it utterly ridiculous, hypocritical, naive and neanderthal thinking.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Barry, I can't speak for Nyack, but the SOCSD Code of Conduct provides that disciplinary action may be taken with respect to conduct that is disorderly, which includes, but is not limited to (i) using language or gestures that are profane, lewd, vulgar or abusive, and (ii) exposure to sight of the private parts of the body in a lewd or indecent manner. As the video was taken at a school function in which the school was in loco parentis, and shown to who knows how many people, the Code of Conduct would apply. I believe that but for the youtube upload, the kids would have competed in the playoffs. Lastly,I did not say that the punishment was deserved, just that the kids need to be accountable. No need to scream.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Thank you for providing the details on the Code of Conduct. And I agree that kids should be held responsible for their actions. However they should be held responsible by their parents and not the school. Further your last post did nothing to change my mind about making a determination of what is acceptable. Terms like profane, lewd and vulgar are very subjective. Some people think what the kids did was silly and harmless and others are up in arms about it. While the code states "...exposure to sight of the private parts of the body in a lwed or indecent manner" again I point out that the Code is not saying that exposure to private parts is objectionable but in a lewd or indecent manner and THAT is subject to interpretation. To teenagers, such action is run of the mill everyday events that they are exposed to constantly through various forms of media including TV and advertising, the internet etc. So why should we expect them to suddenly think it is lewd and unacceptable because they are at a school related event?
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 08:03 PM
My thesis is that all that occurred is subjective behavior and there are no hard and fast rules to determine if it was ok or not and that we can not hold the kids to only our standard and in fact to a higher standard. In the end we might decide it was not ok but not without due process. And even if the outcome is that we find it not good behavior the punishment is still way way to strong. As parents we have to take responsibility for our children who are minors and are responsible for disciplining them. I am not saying the kids should not be held responsible but that is for the parents to decide. The admin can make a recommendation but since thi kids did not break any legal laws no one should punish them other than the parents. Again, I stress so please hear me, if they broke a non-subjective rule like drinking or smoking on a bus or at a school related event then the admin can punish them. But once the misdeed can be seen as unclear they should back off and let the parents decide and consult with the parents. The punishment was too severe. and inappropriate.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Barry, Opinions will differ on what is lewd, obscene or objectionable, or even what age appropriate behavior should be. Of that I am in full agreement. And while the parents should be a part of any school related disciplinary process, prohibiting the school district from taking action unless a law was violated, would result in inconsistent treatment for the similar or same infractions. And I'm not saying that schools are always even-handed and consistent. But, in my opinion, creating a division of responsibility between criminal/non-criminal, or objective/subjective acts would create all kinds of gray area that creative lawyers would exploit. While the School related/Non-School related line is not always so bright, it's less subject to lawyering. Maybe Shakespeare's Dick the Butcher had a point. Peace
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Anon, We already have a gray area as evidenced by the pages of comments already posted. Yes we disagree on what is lewd and that is exactly my point. Because there is disagreement not just by you and me but by the entire community it is unfair to the students to hold them to one undefined interpretation as the accepted standard when that has not been agreed to nor even agreed upon. Given that, while some form of accountability may be appropriate the punishment given to the members of the hockey team was extremely harsh and unwarranted. It was a priankwith no harmful intentions. Does anyone disagree with that? Were the kids out to hurt someone or cause damage or did they just think what they were doing was fun and cool. To have them miss what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for doing something to which upon we cant all even agree was so bad in my mind is shameful and abusive. I feel so strongly about this that I have been willing to assign my real name to thiese posts.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Barry, Well we agree on one thing...that the School District should have (maybe they did,who knows) considered disciplinary action that would have allowed the team to participate in play-offs. I am all for minimizing or eliminating collateral harm to innocent team members.
Barry Silverman February 21, 2013 at 10:36 PM
I agree with that. I just think it was overkill for those that did participate. Some action yes but not what was decided. I think we can break out the peace pipe.
Anon February 21, 2013 at 11:55 PM
No need, the peace was never breached! Just a bit of spirited debate.
FLResident February 23, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Wait...so where was the coach who is supposed to be supervising these boys when this went on?
stephany February 23, 2013 at 10:52 PM
"And while the parents should be a part of "ANY" school related disciplinary process" what makes you think that ? and why,assuming you can justify your comment, just parents and not the taxpayers
Jay March 01, 2013 at 06:42 AM
I think this punishment is way overkill. This kind of stuff happens in high schools all over the U.S. and that's what (young boy) teenagers do these days. They are just joking around, no one got hurt, no one got raped. If this video was taken outside of the school this would be a different story. If a bunch of teens want to joke around and DANCE STUPID without hurting someone I say go for it because they could be doing worse things like drugs and alcohol or extreme hazing. If kids cant be kids, they will find worse things to do!!

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