The games won’t go on — but the practices sessions may — for Chicago Public Schools students during the teachers strike that began on Monday.
The Illinois High School Association’s board of directors on Monday turned down a CPS request to waive a by-law prohibiting teams from playing interscholastic contests during a strike.
IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said the organization’s directors were uncomfortable with the idea of waiving a rule that has been enforced during numerous strikes around the state over the years.
“They felt that it was really beyond the scope of their authority,” Hickman said. “This was a by-law approved by our membership. It says very clearly, if you’re on strike, you can’t participate in interscholastic athletic activities. It wasn’t like granting a waiver to a board policy, it was a by-law.”
In a release sent late Monday, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said, “We regret that the Illinois High School Association has denied our request, and are disappointed that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike could deprive Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) student athletes the opportunity to pursue their dreams on the field. The cancellation of games and practices forced by the CTU strike would impact 11,000 studentscurrently playing varsity sports this fall, and could compromise their pursuitof college scholarship opportunities.”
But IHSA rules give local school boards the option to allow organized practices with coaches during walkouts, and the top CPS sports official said Monday the city would pursue that approach.
“We will give consideration in cases where certified coaches are present and all participating student-athletes have parent permission and medical clearance,” Public League director of sports administration Calvin Davis wrote in a text message. “Safety is paramount and location is important as well.”
Until any CPS contingency plan is in place for coaches to return to practice, athletes are resorting to organizing their own workouts. Among those who did so on Monday were the football and girls cross country teams at Young and Dunbar’s football team.
Among those hoping to work with their teams again soon is Dunbar football coach Glenn Johnson. “Even though I’m respecting the teachers strike, I would [coach] because I’m non-union,” Johnson said. “You’ve been training for a whole summer, you’ve had three games and all of a sudden you’re going to abruptly stop? I can’t wait [to coach again]. We’re 0-3 right now; I’ve never been 0-3 in my life.”
Bob Geiger, who teaches at Young and coaches the girls cross country team, has no intention of crossing the teachers’ picket line in order to return to his team.
“Any union member that coaches a [Public League] team is a scab,” Geiger said.
Foreseeing the possibility of a strike, Geiger passed out copies of every workout he planned for the season to several of his older runners. “It’s a great teaching tool, to teach our kids how to be leaders from the beginning so they can succeed. …
“I told them, ‘You guys organize practice. You guys have learned everything you need to know, pass that knowledge on.’ ”