Jay Lenkersdorfer

Some years ago, when I was still playing church sponsored basketball, I had one of those experiences in life where I wished that I had used a little more of my brain power before I opened my mouth. I think when we are young the two switches sometimes get mixed up. One switch runs the mouth and the other runs the part of the brain that evaluates the alternatives and selects the correct, grown up response to a situation.

In my experience I was literally the recipient of a sucker punch from behind me – the result of a few choice and wholly inappropriate words that I had spoken. The team we were playing that night didn’t have anyone even close to my size to guard me, so they matched me up with a scrappy but short player.

As we jogged up and down the court I found that the guy guarding me was playing an overly aggressive form of basketball, which maybe if we were in the NBA would have been appropriate but wasn’t in the setting of church sponsored basketball. This physical game went on for a few minutes before I realized that something needed to change.

Never one to be unsure of what to say, I used my wit and a little bit of humor to set my opponent a little off balance. As we moved from one end of the court to the other I looked him directly in the eye and said; “You are one ugly #%!#,” then continued running down court. Before I had any warning, the player I had just insulted punched me in the back of the head. This was clearly seen by everybody on and off the court and before I could even turn around there were people getting in between us so nothing could escalate.

Not wanting to discuss my own actions, I jogged over and sat on the bench. Some discussions between my attacker and teammates ensued before the other player was thrown out of the game. As the game was getting back underway one of my teammates sat next to me on the bench and asked, “Did you really say that to him?’ “I’m not proud of it,” I replied, and the rest of the game went on without further insults or assaults. After the game the recipient of my unkind words did invite me out into the parking lot to finish what he had started. I declined, and if memory serves me correctly, I benched myself for the remainder of the season.

I bring up this story as a way to bridge what I feel has become untenable discord in our community with regard to the Cassia County School District and a small number of vocal people using our Sound Off section to land verbal sucker punches on the school board and district administration. This ongoing war of words is being used to criticize nearly every decision being made in the district, most recently the change from a school run maintenance program to an independent contractor run maintenance plan.

As often happens when hard decisions are made, some were not happy about the district moving maintenance to an outside vendor. Like my experience of harsh, unkind words turning into something more personal, we have had a number of Sound Off’s recently that are becoming harsh and confrontational. In many of these situations, fiction has taken the place of fact and people are using recent decisions to launch additional accusations and insults at the school board as well as school administration.

Pages ten and eleven of this edition of the Weekly Mailer contain a paid ad that addresses some of these harsh and demeaning attacks. The space was purchased by Cassia School Board Member Darrin Moon. Having read his remarks and other recent responses from the district, it has become clear that we as a publication also need to have a paradigm shift when it comes to harsh and often inaccurate remarks being published anonymously. For the foreseeable future we will not be publishing unsigned Sound Off’s that attack, insult or demean school district personnel.

We are of the opinion that much needs to be done to move forward as a community and that can’t happen so long as we are willing to allow these insults and sucker punches to print anonymously in the paper. We will continue to publish signed and unsigned Sound Offs on any number of subjects, just not about the Cassia School District.

I have often said that the absolute worst volunteer job in the world is that of an unpaid school board member, and yet these individuals still participate. There is no fame, stature or any monetary reason to participate, but these five are willing to be involved. I would encourage anyone who questions what is being done, what has been done in the past, and what we need to do in the future, to show up at the school board meetings, and second, run for a school board seat. I think you would find five people who would be happy to see someone else step into the line of fire.

Until such time as someone else steps forward to solve nearly impossible problems, which almost always involves the lack of sufficient funding to accomplish every need, I would encourage all of us to learn more about the reason things are done in the way the board has determined and find a way to support them.

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