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Two meetings, no solutions yet for rock-throwing

fili@samoanews.com

The American Samoa High School Athletic Association (ASHSAA) has recommended sanctions against the Tafuna High School sports program following a rock-throwing incident two weekends ago, but the final decision on actions to be taken now rest with Education Department director-designee Dr.Jacinta Galeai.

ASHSAA held a board meeting last Wednesday to review the 40-second video clip, which appears to show about 20 students from Tafuna High throwing rocks toward a vehicle displaying flags of Fagaitua High School, who won the football championship game that day.

The board then submitted its recommendations to Galeai, who took it under advisement and mentioned it briefly - with no specific details revealed - during a meeting on the incident called later by Galeai with officials from DOE, Public Safety, Social Services, Attorney General's Office plus members of the Ituau and Tualauta Coalitions.

Samoa News understands that one of the recommendations by ASHSAA was to suspend Tafuna High School from the rest of the sporting competitions for the school year. There are a handful of ASHSAA sports left for the school year.

Galeai didn't immediately respond to Samoa News e-mail questions sent last Thursday and Friday.

Rep. Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr. said ASHSAA's recommendations were not detailed during the DOE meeting but he disagrees with punishing everyone. He said he heard that Tafuna was being recommended for suspension from all ASHSAA sports programs for the remainder of the school year.

"Why punish the other sports program at Tafuna when it was football that resulted in the throwing of rocks?" he told Samoa News over the weekend. "The football season is over and it's football that caused this problem. There is no reason why other sports programs at the high school should be affected."

"Focus on the sport that caused the problem - which is football, the most emotional sport for all the sports. It's unfair to the athletes in other sports program to be punished for something they weren't even part of" he said, adding that it was left up to Galeai to make a final decision on the ASHSAA recommendations.

Tapumanaia said there was a consensus at the meeting not to blame the entire high school for this incident, while everyone agreed that something needs to be done to prevent such incidents from occurring again.

After reviewing the video clip of the incident at the meeting, several recommendations were made, one of which was for DOE to work with the AG's Office on possible charges that may have to be filed against the individuals involved, said Rep.Larry Sanitoa, who attended the meeting.

"On a broader scale and taking a proactive approach to prevent these types of incidents, DOE plans to establish a committee that will look at addressing violence on and off campus, by working closely with village and church leaders, etc," he told Samoa News over the weekend.

"Violence in our schools is unacceptable, but unfortunately it does happen, especially during sports competition. Prevention is the key to reducing these incidents and managing the behavior of the students before things escalate," he said.

"Intervention strategies and solutions were the main purpose of this meeting as everyone shares the same concern - that the safety of our students, faculty and general public is a priority," Sanitoa added.

Tapumanaia said it was also decided during the meeting that Tafuna High vice principal Ben Te'o would complete the identification of students shown in the video involved in the rock throwing incident and provide names of those students to Assistant Attorney General Terri Bullinger, who will review local laws for the action to be taken next.

He said the DPS representative informed the meeting that due to financial constraints police cannot be everywhere on island after a game, but noted that there were police officers around the Veterans Memorial Stadium that day, as well as a police escort to take the Fagaitua team back to their home turf.

According to the lawmaker, during the meeting it was revealed that there were also Nu'uuli Vocational High School students shown in the video involved in the incident. Additionally, games between other high schools - not football games - have also resulted in fights and other problems, he said.

"This rock throwing incident was highlighted more for the fact that it was captured on video," said Tapumanaia, who added that he had recommended that "no spectators be allowed" at high school sporting events that are "high geared and can cause friction" like football.

"The football game was aired live on TV and broadcast by a local radio station, so spectators and others not connected to a team, could enjoy the game from the comfort of their homes," he said.

Tapumanaia was a bit disappointed with the meeting, saying,"in these types of meetings, you sit down to discuss and come up with a solution."

"We need to get more involvement from villages and parents," he noted, adding that parents of students involved should be shown the video. "But at the end of the meeting there were no real solutions reached - just a lot of concerns."



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