Six Times CovCath Chaperones Should Have Stepped In…But Didn’t

Amidst the back-and-forth over the behavior of the Covington Catholic School boys at last week’s march, I blame the grown-ups. Twenty adults accompanied 240 boys from Kentucky to Washington to participate in a potentially highly-charged political event. They should have been on high alert. So where the hell where they?

According to the Kentucky Courier-Journal, only five adults remained with the boys during the scenes captured on video. Where were the other fifteen? Some reports say they were waiting for the buses.

Where the five left with the group kindly parents or educators trained to take command of large groups of children? My guess is the former, which was mistake number one.

Now some have argued that allowing the boys to wear the red MAGA hats — which for many stand for intolerance and racism — to a crowded venue where there would be counter-protestors was mistake number one. Even if you disagree, at the very least, they should have prepared the boys to expect — fairly or unfairly — that some people would make certain assumption about them.

Either way, the adults in charge of the kids abdicated their authority and allowed the situation to escalate disastrously. There were at least six different times they could have diffused the situation and modeled calm dignity in difficult circumstances.

Opportunity One: Videos show the boys harassing girls by yelling about rape as they walked by. A strong adult would have immediately stopped them and talked to them about respect and then set firm expectations for their behavior in public.

Opportunity Two: Let’s be clear about something — a group of adults was harassing and yelling at their boys. The minute the Black Hebrew Israelites began to taunt, insult, and yell at both boys and the Native Americans, the chaperones should have moved in and ushered their charges to a different corner. Anytime adults harass kids, the kids need to be moved away for their own safety. Period.

Then, once away from the situation, there could’ve been an opportunity to tell the boys to take a knee, take a deep breath, and discuss what just happened. Perhaps they could’ve even discussed how their actions complied with or did not comply with their religious teachings (since it is a religious school, after all).

Instead the chaperones did nothing as unknown grownups yelled at their kids and their kids yelled back. The situation escalated and the boys continued to rev up.

Opportunity Three: As the taunting from both the protestors and the boys escalated, some of the boys asked the chaperones if they could chant school songs to drown them out. Instead of, again, removing the boys from the heat of the situation, they incredibly shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sure.”

So the boys began chanting and jumping and yelling, working themselves up into a frenzy. One out-of-control boy took off his shirt and began waving it aggressively, yelling at the protesters and posturing like a crazed wrestler, clearly communicating the propensity for physical aggression.

Chaperones should have recognized that the boys were unable to regulate their emotions and energy in the moment, and, once again, moved them away from the escalating situation.

Opportunity Five: Native American Nathaniel Phillips, in an NPR interview, likened the boys’ energy to the Charlottesville mayhem and was alarmed by their growing, unchecked intensity. So he began chanting, drumming and moving toward them to distract them from the altercation. It worked for a moment — the surprising move interrupted the cycle.

And in that moment, when the boys’s pattern of escalating energy was paused, the chaperones should have once again stepped in. They could’ve waved the boys back and away from the elder. They could have signaled for silence and even allowed Phillips through toward the Lincoln memorial where he says he was headed.

Instead, they did nothing and the boys encircled Phillips in an aggressive, too-close manner and escalated the situation by chanting, mocking and insulting the old man.

Opportunity Six: According to various videos, it doesn’t appear Phillips walked toward the boy at the center of the debate as the boy claims, Nick Sandmann, claims but the other way around. Sanddmann blocks the elder. One video shows the boy seeming to signal someone to back off so perhaps he was, as he asserts, trying to diffuse the situation. However, amidst the jeering and howling of his friends, Sandmann’s aggressive eye contact, smirking and puffed chest indicate otherwise.

Still, a chaperone should have immediately launched into action and waved Sandmann and all the other screaming, tomahawk-chanting boys back and away from the drumming elder. Why did they let it go on as long as they did?

The chaperones, the priest, and the parents ceded their roles as leaders and now the nation is once again divided as people take “sides.”

Amazingly, one chaperone quoted in the Kentucky Courier-Journal says that there was “nothing the chaperones could have done differently.” Wow. He added that he was “very proud of how the boys handled the situation.”


And now, backed by a PR firm, and self-righteous defenders, it doesn’t look like religious leaders and parents of the school are going to step in and acknowledge their part in the situation in any way. Instead, they are modeling victimhood and blaming the media and everyone else.

In an interview with CBS News, Sanddman admits that, “In hindsight, I wish we could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing.”

Precisely. And that’s where the grownups failed you, kid, because the grownups should have shown you how to do just that.

And now the rest of us grownups have the opportunity to discuss the situation without blaming, claiming victimhood, or “fighting to the death” for one side or the other. You know, like adults.



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Vicky Alvear Shecter

Vicky Alvear Shecter

Author of historical fiction set in the ancient world as well as books on mythology and history for kids.