EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – After the East St. Louis school board voted to reinstate the boys high school track team Monday, the Illinois State Board of Education sided with the East St. Louis Senior High School superintendent and terminated the remainder of the season.
In a letter, from the Illinois superintendent Tony Smith, he notes to District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver: “I have reviewed your decision to terminate the East St. Louis track and field season and I uphold your decision.”
“We have accepted his action of removing the ESL Boys Track team from the IHSA State Series and will not be allowing ESL any re-entry into the state series,” Executive Director of the Illinois High School Association said in a letter.
In a press release Monday afternoon, a school spokesperson said the brawl included a ‘significant number of Flyers track team members.’
The school says it reviewed video footage, information from administrators, security guards, a police officer and spectators.
“It is difficult to determine which athletes went into the stands to fight or to break up the fighting. Regardless of the athlete’s intent, the action of going into the stands escalated the situation and endangered themselves and others. After the incident was managed and security was escorting one of the perpetrators away from the scene, a significant number of Flyers track team members interfered and there was an attempt to fight the individual again,” Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, Director of Strategic Partnerships said.
“Based on the information gathered, the tension among our teenagers and young adults remains high. The altercation, which began on May 8, may not be over. By ending the boys track and field season, we are attempting to ensure the safety of student athletes and spectators.”
Superintendent Culver canceled the track season last Thursday.
On Friday, East St. Louis Senior High School students walked out of school with a message for the superintendent. They chanted, “no sports, no school.”
“This was a heartfelt decision that I regret I had to make. Athletic events should be provided in a safe environment. At its core, athletics is designed to develop good leadership, good citizenship, good fellowship and good sportsmanlike behavior. As a community, we need to work on re-establishing these values,” Culver said in a press release.
East St. Louis High School alum and Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee said she is disappointed in the decision to cancel the boys track team's season.
"That unfortunate situation shouldn't cast a shadow of a doubt for the people who worked for so long,” she said. "Penalizing the whole team, I think is harsh."
A number of seniors on the team fear they will lose scholarships due to the suspension of the season.
Joyner-Kersee said the decision sets a bad precedent, which could potentially hurt future track team members.
"For young people, sometimes they make mistakes sometimes those mistakes could be costly we are here and supposed to be to help them,” she said.
The former Olympian believes the students should have been able to voice their opinions before the decision was made.
"Let them have due process,” Joyner-Kersee said.
She said this is something that everyone can learn from.
"This is a learning point, but it's a turning point as they evolve and become I believe productive young men," she said.