Davisville student appeals suspension

[attach]3263[/attach]Did the [url=]Appeal for Emil[/url] work?

Just days before school closed for winter holidays, Northern Secondary School officials remained tight-lipped about the athletic fate of grade 12 soccer team captain Emil Cohen, who says he was suspended for expressing his displeasure with the school’s purported second-class treatment of the boys soccer team at an athletic awards assembly late last year.

Staff at the assembly deemed it unacceptable and interrupted his speech Oscar-style, cuing the music and turning on the lights.

Cohen was suspended for the remainder of that day and the following day as well. Students also said that he was barred from using all athletic department facilities even after the suspension was over.

That caught the ire of student activists, who in early December held a lunchtime protest in support of Cohen, and to show discontent with the administration’s handling of the incident. They demanded his suspension be removed from his permanent record and that his athletic privileges be reinstated.

According to several news reports, Cohen’s suspension was removed from his record and his athletic privileges restored. There have been conflicting reports that state he was still waiting on these requests.

In a phone interview days before school closed for the winter holidays, Cohen’s father, George Tomlinson, told the Town Crier progress was being made with the school administration. He declined to elaborate.

Repeated calls to Northern Secondary School have gone unanswered and the Toronto District School Board would neither confirm nor deny Cohen’s athletic privileges have been restored and that the suspension has been stricken from his record.

Several notable community members were disturbed by this incident and attended the student rally to support Cohen. Various groups attended the December protest, including Ontario education critic Rosario Marchese.

“You have a right to say what you need to say and he did so respectfully,” Marchese said of Cohen. “He wasn’t, in my mind, doing it in such a way that it deserved a suspension. Suspensions are for serious incidents. Not for speaking your mind and not for doing it respectfully.”

[attach]3264[/attach]What was intended to be a respectful, peaceful protest ended up having some ugly moments. Members of the school’s football team, along with other students, gathered directly across the street from the protesters and displayed their condemnation of the Cohen rally.

“These people are honestly just looking for attention. There’s no other word for it,” Cohen said to the Town Crier as objects flew through the air.

“Many of them have told me they’d come out to support me. Many are on the football team, upset that their dominance might come to an end.”

Football team member Lucas Valverde explained that his side felt the athletics department was being unfairly criticized and that he supported the administration’s notion that the athletics assembly was not the appropriate venue for Cohen to voice his concerns.

“I understand his complaints completely. But he talked to the office. Everyone gives a preview of their speech. Emil gave it to them, they said, ‘Could you please not say this’,” Valverde said. “He just basically looked into our athletic department’s eye and said it was a horrible department. Northern’s known for its athletics. You can’t just say that, especially at an awards assembly.”

At one point during the protest, Valverde engaged in a heated discussion with Max Naylor, student council vice-president.

While Naylor himself did not attend the athletic assembly, he asserted that he could not think of a better time or place for Cohen to express himself.

“You have all the people involved in athletics in one room. No one has ever suggested what a better place would be,” Naylor said.

Numerous parents and also media outlets attended the rally but no members of the school’s administration or the school board were visibly present.