Forestville student kicked off golf team pleads for leniency

OBSERVER Photo by Damian Sebouhian Forestville golf coach Jack Dugan Jr. addresses the school board in support of high school student Lewis Markham who was removed from the golf team for admitting to drinking a sip of beer while on a school trip in Nicaragua/Costa Rica.

FORESTVILLE — Honor student and Forestville High School star basketball player and golfer Lewis Markham addressed the school board during last week’s meeting in an attempt to appeal a decision to remove him from the golf team because of an infraction he committed while on a recent school trip to Costa Rica.

The infraction? Markham admitted to a teacher/chaperone that he had taken a sip of beer while visiting a Wi-Fi zone near the hotel. The Wi-Fi zone “was more of a hang-out place…with several picnic tables, a pool table and a pavilion,” Markham said as he narrated the events leading up to his infraction and eventual punishment. “Two other students and I sat down at the pavilion.”

Markham told the board that he was there for one purpose, to use the Wi-Fi; he didn’t even have any money with him.

“One of the other students next to me ordered a beer and began to drink it,” said Markham. “They passed it back and forth, but I was not involved until one of the people handed me the beer. This is where I made my mistake and took one sip of that beer and handed it back to the same person. Afterwards, the two people ordered another beer, but I did not have anymore and went back to my room for the night. The next night our teacher/chaperone had a talk with us in her room, explaining that an individual informed her that there might have been drinking at the Wi-Fi area the previous night. After the talk was over, I went back into my teacher’s room and told her what happened. I owned up to my mistake and was honest with her.”

The school took action on April 10 after interviewing the students involved.

“I received five days OSS (out of school suspension), which fits the infraction since I signed a paper stating I would not drink alcohol on the trip to Costa Rica,” Markham admitted. “I was removed from my golf team for my one sip of beer. I did not go to the Wi-Fi spot with the intent to drink beer, nor did I buy the beer or pay for the beer. I understand that I had made a mistake, and I was honest and owned up to it.”

While Markham, and his golf coach Jack Dugan, Jr., agree that Markham broke the rules and should be held accountable for his actions, the severity of the punishment, they argued, does not match the crime.

“This is my first offense ever at Forestville,” said Markham. “I have never even been called down to the office. I have been a high honor roll, straight A student-athlete that has proudly represented our school in both basketball and golf. On Sunday, my name and picture will be appearing in the Buffalo paper as 2017-2018 ADPRO Sports/Section VI Scholar Athlete All-Western New York Boys Basketball Team.”

Coach Dugan told the board that Markham owned up to his mistake when he could have easily have lied and gotten away with it.

“He made the right choice (by admitting his mistake) because he knew it was the right choice,” Dugan said. “But he and all of us were floored by the extreme punishment. I don’t excuse (wrong actions committed) by athletes, but I do know that people have an opportunity in this world to redeem themselves and it seems like that wasn’t given to Lewis.”

Dugan challenged the board to revise the student and athlete handbook to include alternative consequences.

“I’m here to ask you to look at the athletic code and most importantly on behalf of Lewis, to say that this is a great kid and he’s got a broken heart right now,” Dugan said. “I hope you listen to what he has said.”

Markham suggested that Forestville adopt policies similar to Silver Creek School District, which “imposes a two-week suspension of sports,” for similar infractions.

“Forestville has a history of kicking students off the team for the season regardless of the circumstances, whether they have previously been in trouble or not, and disregarding the character of the student involved.

“I owned up for my mistake, I told the truth, and now I get severely punished because of that,” Markham told the board. “How is that fair to me as a student athlete at Forestville? Why couldn’t the school give me a three-match suspension? Why is it automatically that I get kicked off the team for making one mistake?”

The Forestville Board of Education is meeting today, and it is not known whether they will make a decision on the case.