Highland Park Basketball Team Trip to Arizona Scrapped
Unbelievable! This is so ridiculous! If I was a parent I’d be furious at this school and I’d force them to take the team on this trip!
Highland Park basketball team trip to Arizona scrapped
May 12, 2010
Reveling in its first conference championship in 26 years, the Highland Park High School girls varsity basketball team has been selling cookies for months to raise funds for a tournament in Arizona. But those hoop dreams were dashed when players learned they couldn’t go because of that state’s new crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Safety concerns partly fueled the decision, but the trip also “would not be aligned with our beliefs and values,” said District 113 Assistant Superintendent Suzan Hebson. That explanation, though, smacks of political protest to parents upset by the decision.
The news, which was broken to the team Monday by coach Jolie Bechtel, comes as critics of Arizona’s controversial law call on professional athletes and others to boycott the state.
Last month a New York congressman asked Major League Baseball to pull next year’s All-Star Game from Phoenix, and protesters recently picketed Wrigley Field when the Arizona Diamondbacks played the Cubs.
But tossing a high school team into the heated debate has left parents and players baffled and angry.
“Why are we mixing politics and a basketball tournament?” said Michael Evans, whose daughter Lauren is a junior on the team. “It’s outrageous that they’re doing this under the guise of safety.”
Lauren Evans said she thought the concern was probably that one of the players could get stopped and questioned.
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “I don’t think it makes much sense. We shouldn’t be a threat. We just want to play basketball.”
District 113 Superintendent George Fornero declined comment, saying it “wasn’t just my decision.” He referred calls to Hebson.
Hebson said Arizona is off-limits because of uncertainty about how the new law will be enforced. Signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last month, it makes it a crime to be in the country illegally and requires police to check suspects for immigration paperwork.
Hebson said the turmoil is no place for students of Highland Park High School, which also draws from Highwood.
“We would want to ensure that all of our students had the opportunity to be included and be safe and be able to enjoy the experience,” Hebson said of the tournament, which will be played in December. “We wouldn’t necessarily be able to guarantee that.”
Asked if there are undocumented players on the team, or if anyone associated with the team is in the country illegally, Hebson said she did not know.