Powder puff game heats up meeting

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board’s committee of the whole meeting was packed Monday evening. Parents and students filled the room to voice their concerns about the cancelation of the annual homecoming Powder Puff football game. While the game remains canceled, students and parents asked the school board and administrators to reconsider and allow the game to go on.

Concerns rose after high school administrators decided to cancel the game due to the risk of injury. Last year, a student was hurt while playing the game and possible social media bullying occurred.

The annual competition, which is held between junior and senior girls, allows them to participate in two-hand touch football. The girls are coached by varsity boy football players.

Amy Johnson, a parent within the Escanaba school district, said while she is appreciative of the administration’s concerns for the safety of students, she also felt students were not given the chance to voice their opinions.

“We also don’t think that taking events away from them, the fun things, is also conducive to homecoming,” said Johnson.

In replacement of powder puff, administrators came up with a “powder puff skills competition” which would involve football-type events. This competition would also include freshman and sophomore girls, along with juniors and seniors.

“The kids weren’t given the chance to voice their opinions (or) to vote. They were just told that this is what’s going to happen,” said Johnson.

Instead of the normal two-hand touch style that is associated with powder puff, Johnson, other parents and students in attendance proposed changing from two-hand touch to a flag football type game to try and reduce the risk of possible injury.

Flag football consists of players wearing a belt with colored flags attached. Players are considered “tackled,” when their flag has been detached from their belt by another player.

A waiver and new behavioral rules were also written up for the safety of students, noted Johnson.

“What we are asking is that you give them a chance,” said Johnson. “Give them a chance to prove to you they can do this the right way.”

Other residents agreed with Johnson, stating injuries are possible in any kind of sport, and majority of the time they are not intentional.

If the powder puff game remains canceled, both parents and students said an alternate game would be held in Ludington Park on their own terms.

Some students who are involved with student council and National Honor Society stated if they took part in and or attended the game at Ludington Park, they could be at risk of being removed from the student organizations.

High school senior and student council member Maddison Kolich explained that while attending the last student council meeting, High School Principal Darci Griebel, told their advisor that if they attended the game if it was held in the park, they could be in jeopardy of losing their place in the student groups.

“I’m really worried about my roles as a student council member,” said Kolich. “If I can’t even go to that, or even watch it… I’m just worried I’d get kicked off the student council.”

Other residents said while they understood why parents and students were upset, they felt the decision was made solely for safety — not to take away from the fun of homecoming activities.

Elizabeth Schlenvogt, parent and guidance counselor at Escanaba schools, said having players participate who are not fully trained in football can be extra dangerous because of the high intensity that comes with the game.

“Football is an aggressive sport and that’s what makes it fun, and also makes it very dangerous” said Schlenvogt.

Junior high teacher and parent Marie Young agreed with Schlenvogt, noting the game wasn’t “canceled” it was “replaced.”

“We are not the first school to re-evaluate power puff football due to the risk of injury,” said Young. “Our administration has a tough job to do and they try to do it with as much information as they have to make a decision that really has safety in mind more than anything else.”

Young said she feels it was not the administration’s intention to take away from the activities, but to rather make it safer, while keeping the fun.

The mother of the daughter who was injured at last year’s event, Becky Sliva, said while she also appreciates the administration’s choices and keeping the safety of the children in mind, she also doesn’t think that canceling the game is the way to go.

“The injury wasn’t intentional,” said Sliva, adding the excitement of the game, along with the two-hand-touch, was the major cause for the accident.

In other business, the board also discussed student enrollment, which is lower than predicted. Superintendent Coby Fletcher said when the school performed a flash count, the enrollment in the district was down.

At last prediction and for budgeting reasons, the district estimated 2,328.1 students, explained Fletcher. Following the flash count last week, the district accounted for 30 less students. This count is unofficial, said Fletcher, and shouldn’t cause any concern as of now.

The board also filled three positions. Laura Robinson will serve as the junior high yearbook advisor, Stacie Flinn will be the J.V. sideline cheer coach and Jacob Walker was hired as the seventh grade assistant football coach.