August 1, 2014

Elyria
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5 Avon Lake ballplayers face discipline for ‘Harlem Shake’ video

AVON LAKE — Five Avon Lake High School baseball players will face game suspensions for their part in an impromptu “Harlem Shake” video shot in the high school locker room that contained what was deemed by school officials as inappropriate behavior.

The five students were identified as being the primary offenders in the video, which was posted to YouTube shortly after being shot when a practice had ended last week, according to Avon Lake Schools Superintendent Robert Scott.

While 13 members of the squad will not face any school discipline, the entire team will perform some type of community service with St. Joseph Church, according to Scott.

“I haven’t heard exactly what they will be doing yet, but I know that it’s being set up,” Scott said.

The five ballplayers determined to have taken part in inappropriate behavior in the video received in-school suspensions and the loss of taking part in school baseball games.

The exact number of games the students will lose will be fixed by terms of school and athletic department rules.

“Some received two games and some got one game,” Scott said.

The 18 students seen in the video included varsity and junior varsity players, Scott said.

The video included views of a couple of students holding baseball bats in a sexually suggestive manner.

“They all realize this was a huge mistake,” Scott said. “This didn’t just affect them, it affected all kids who go to school here. Our kids do thousands of things during the year that are wonderful, and the one thing going out (online) will be remembered.”

The video, which depicted the players dancing to the “Harlem Shake,” an early 1980s dance that originated in the New York City neighborhood that is enjoying newfound popularity resulting from high-profile video renditions by celebrities.

While versions of events varied among the 18 student-athletes interviewed by school officials, there was one consistent statement made by nearly all 18, according to Scott.

“Almost all of them said they never thought the video was going to be posted (online),” Scott said. “The attitude was that it was just stupid and it wasn’t going anywhere. The initial intent of the video was not what it ended up to be. When some saw what was going on, they left.”

The video was removed from YouTube on Monday after school officials learned of it through a tip, according to Scott.

Avon Lake High Principal Joanie Walker and Athletic Director Thomas R. Barone interviewed students and parents as part of their investigation.

The 13 students found not to have been involved in inappropriate behavior will be disciplined by the coach, but will not miss any games, Scott said. “That could mean extra running or not getting to start a game.”

School officials hope to use the incident to get students to better understand and respect the pervasive nature of social media and the often-negative results of “going viral.”

“Making mistakes is part of growing up, which is a messy thing,” Scott said. “We say we don’t have lots of angels here, but we do have lots of really good kids.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.