Recently in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two different school districts shut down their highly successful high school football programs for at least the remainder of this year. These decisions followed revelations that there had been “hazing” incidents involving new football team members conducted by veteran players. As described, the incidents were nothing to be proud about. Ending the practiced seemed appropriate. But shutting the program down? Was that necessary?
Both school districts emphasized their zero tolerance for this type of behavior and the need to send a clear message that such behavior would not be tolerated. In business terms, the school district’s actions were an attempt to get ahead of the curve of public opinion. The school districts worried “wha if” these hazing incidents were to have become public knowledge or to have lead to even more unacceptable behavior.
The need to punish the entire team when only a part of the team were instigators, seems excessive. School officials point out, however, that football is an extracurricular event and not the main purpose of schools. Further, officials emphasize that hazing was entirely unnecessary and this behavior to is too close to “bullying” to allow to continue. Ending the season for some students who did not participate is a small price for teaching what is right.
The New Jersey and New York Governors together have taken somewhat similar preemptive action. Governors Christie and Cuomo announced a mandatory 21 day quarantine for all persons entering the US through Newark or JFK airports who had visited Ebola infected areas. A Democrat and a Republican gave their announcement the appearance of bipartisan politics. Hmmm.
On one hand, the idea that someone could enter the country carrying Ebola, only later to develop full blown symptoms is pretty ominous. In such densely populated areas as Northern New Jersey and especially New York City, “getting ahead of the curve” has an obvious popular appeal. No one will later claim that either Governor is not a leader and willing to take action.
On the other hand, health organizations have repeatedly said that the best defense against an Ebola outbreak in the US is to eradicate it in West Africa. Americans who volunteer for this work (as well as any other visitors) will face a mandatory 21 day quarantine on their return. Where would these people stay? Who would pay for this quarantine period’s expenses?
There are two consequences one should expect. First, returning volunteers will get creative on their return routing. Newark and JFK are not likely to be their choice of entry point. And full disclosure is even less likely to occur.
Second, the prospect of an additional 21 days away from their primary occupation will likely discourage potential volunteers from volunteering in the first place. Hmmm.
Unlike the football story, messing with medical advice, is not a wise long term position for politicians. Canceling a football season is small potatoes compared with controlling an infections disease. And what will these good Governors do when an airborne pandemic influenza breaks out in Europe and arrives in the US with ship and air travelers?