To Catch Rule-Breakers, Schools Look Online

Photos show athletes using alcohol, drugs By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff | December 22, 2006

High schools across Massachusetts are threatening to punish athletes if they are spotted drinking alcohol or using drugs in photos or videos posted on MySpace , YouTube , or other online sites.

School officials say they are enforcing existing bans on smoking or drinking, and turning to online sites to catch the rule-breakers. In at least 20 high schools across the state, principals are warning athletes that they will punish them for behavior caught online , according to the state's secondary school principals group and athletic association. The two groups estimate that dozens of schools are using this tactic. Several schools have suspended students from games.

Woburn High School suspended a handful of athletes from two practices and one game last spring after police recognized the athletes holding cans of beer in photographs posted on MySpace. This year, Newton South High School notified athletes they could be suspended if captured breaking the rules in photographs or video online.

Schools generally do not punish nonathletes for behavior outside school, but the 175,000 student athletes in Massachusetts must follow a code of conduct that bans drug and alcohol use during the season. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association , which governs school sports, requires schools to, at a minimum, suspend first offenders for 25 percent of the games and subsequent offenders for 60 percent. Individual schools can set tougher rules, including removing students from teams or enforcing the rules year-round.

Schools already have been warning students to be careful about what they post online, but punishing athletes for misdeeds online is a more aggressive approach.

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Monty Solomon
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