The Shoreham-Wading River school board is expected to discuss safety issues when it comes to sports equipment in the district — namely, whether athletes should be banned from using their own helmets, according to Tuesday’s meeting agenda.
The discussion comes months after 16-year-old SWR football player Tom Cutinella died this fall after an on-field injury during the team’s Oct. 1 game at John Glenn. Athletic director Mark Passamonte confirmed Sunday that Tom used one of the school’s helmets, not his own, and the upcoming discussion stems from a recent districtwide evaluation on safety policies and procedures for sporting equipment following his death.
He said the district’s football helmets and shoulder pads are reconditioned and inspected annually, a safety process that’s most likely not happening to the helmets that students provide themselves.
“As a result of the tragic experience this fall, I have discovered that there are a number of SWR students that use personal helmets in football, lacrosse, baseball and softball,” Mr. Passamonte wrote in a letter attached to the meeting’s agenda. “The issue that arises is that personal helmets are not sent out for annual reconditioning, specifically in football and lacrosse.”
The district currently doesn’t provide helmets or shoulder pads for lacrosse, he said, adding those players provide their own helmets mainly because they also compete in summer tournaments.
Mr. Passamonte said he spoke with other districts to learn about their sports equipment safety procedures and found the majority of students providing their own helmets at those schools are lacrosse athletes.
In a separate measure at Tuesday’s meeting, the school board is expected to vote on a resolution that would render 15 helmets in the football program and six sets of shoulder pads as obsolete. The reason listed for both is “rejected during the re-conditioning process, no longer usable.”
Dr. Steven Cohen, the school’s superintendent, said in a phone conversation on Monday morning that all equipment used last season was certified before the season started, and annual reviews are required for all of its sporting equipment.
“Before the start of any season, all equipment passes a safety standard,” he said. “And even though equipment passes inspection, it doesn’t mean that there is not a life cycle and a need to replace this stuff.”
Tuesday night’s discussion will focus in part, he said, on whether or not the district wants to change its own safety standards.
In his letter, Mr. Passamonte recommends that the district require all athletes to use district owned or issued equipment and is asking the school board to consider the following options:
• Require all athletes to use district owned/issued equipment. The estimated cost would be $6,000 per year for football, lacrosse, baseball and softball to replace helmets. (The first year for lacrosse would be estimated at $12,925 to provide helmets for the entire program).
• Recondition personal equipment with district equipment to allow for proper safety measures through National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment approval.
• Allow personal helmets to be donated to the district. Those helmets would become district property and go through the reconditioning process as outlined.
Separately, the school board is also scheduled to hear a presentation from freshman Ryan Ledda about his Eagle Scout proposal to build a bronzed memorial for Tom Cutinella by erecting either a life-sized football helmet displaying #54 (Tom’s number) or an artist rendering of Tom on a plaque.
Scroll down to view the complete agenda and check back for an update.