Last night I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend a panel discussion at Walpole High School and it featured some names you might be familiar with:
Robert Kraft- Owner of the New England Patriots (Image by Rick Booth, newspaper adviser Al-Noor Academy, Mansfield, Mass)
Devin McCourty- Pro Bowl Safety/Cornerback for the New England Patriots (Image by Rick Booth, newspaper adviser Al-Noor Academy, Mansfield, Mass)
Jonathan Kraft- President of the Kraft Group (Image by Rick Booth, newspaper adviser Al-Noor Academy, Mansfield, Mass)
Despite the representation from the hometown team, there was little talk about football as the night was focused on the work being done off the field to combat injustices and problems within schools and the criminal justice system.
Robert Kraft opened the discussion talking about his recent involvement in the case of Philadelphia rapper “Meek Mill” who was imprisoned after violating his probation stemming from a conviction he received when he was 21 years old.
From his visit with him a week and a half prior to his release yesterday, Kraft supported the rapper saying his case “really brought home to me the unfairness of the criminal justice system” and emphasized that he was a citizen who could have been out generating income, paying taxes and creating jobs, but instead was locked up.
McCourty on the other hand, along with teammate and fellow safety Duron Harmon, attended the panel representing the NFL’s “Players Coalition”. The group, which originally formed two years ago after former NFL WR Anquan Boldin’s cousin was killed by a police officer, has since expanded to looking at a variety of issues not just about police abuse of power but also the handling of discipline within schools and children being unfairly thrust into the judicial system.
I asked Devin to describe the coalition to someone who had never heard about it, to which he said, “I think now it’s just a group of guys trying to be more educated and think, city by city, ‘how we can help?’ ” before adding his belief that not seeking education from professionals in other fields before speaking about these issues (which both players have done on multiple occasions) would be like “Someone coming in to our team meetings and telling us how to play different coverages”
Another member of the panel was Judge Gloria Tan who spoke about the various points throughout the judicial system, from a police officer’s initial encounter with a kid, to a prosecutor’s choice to divert or arrange a kid, all the way up to a judge’s ruling, where a decision can be made to not give a child a criminal record they will have to carry for the rest of their life.
Judge Gloria Tan alongside Matt Cregor tan offers her thoughts on the role of the judicial system in juvenile justice (Image by Rick Booth, newspaper adviser Al-Noor Academy, Mansfield, Mass)
I asked her which of these points in the decision making process most needs to be taken a closer look at, to which she said “I think they are all equally important and it’s just good for everyone in the [judicial] system to understand the power they wield and how to use their best discretion”
Rounding out the panel was Matt Cregor- an attorney who has handled a variety of education matters including school discipline, special education, and student assignment. He spoke on how suspensions from school have doubled in the last twenty years with 64% of these being as the state of Massachusetts calls them “non-violent, non-criminal, non-drug related behavior” before noting that these suspensions lead to an increased risk in students dropping out of school and becoming a part of the criminal justice system.
It was a night of learning for me and to be completely honest I’m still trying to soak in everything I heard. But in a world with so much going on in it right now that’s all we can really try to do; self educate and form beliefs off of stats and facts instead of biases.
Because nobody wants to be the one telling the NFL player how to play cover 2.