The Turlock Unified School District is unwilling to authorize the necessary overtime to pay athletic trainers to be present before, during or after football games for both Turlock High School and Pitman High School this season.
The policy change was brought to TurlockCityNews.com's attention by THS football parent Jim Green, who found out about the district’s stance during a pre-scrimmage announcement by THS head coach James Peterson. Green says Peterson told parents there would be no trainers before or during games at THS and PHS this season due to a district policy change to no longer pay trainers overtime to work the games.
Green, upset by the announcement, contacted the TUSD administration to no avail.
TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Heidi Lawler told TurlockCityNews.com that the district could not say if athletic trainers would be present during football games this season, as personnel issues are confidential. She did confirm that athletic trainers are considered full-time employees.
When asked if trainers would be present during football games this season TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto said, “I do not know what the trainer’s schedules are.”
Turlock High School Athletic Director Anthony Belew confirmed that overtime for athletic trainers has been officially cut, and that the district has indicated they will not pay overtime. Belew said that adjusting trainers' hours might allow them to be present for games, but he had major concerns.
For example, trainers have typically been present for freshman, junior varsity, and varsity games. Typically, freshman games start at 3 p.m. and varsity games will often end after 10 p.m. Trainers are needed before, during and after games for player health needs, but trainers are only paid for eight hours a day.
Belew also says that the overtime restriction will be detrimental to other sports such as wrestling and basketball during lengthy single or two-day weekend tournaments in which games and matches are spread out longer than eight hours in a day.
“I’m wondering how that will work,” said Belew. “I guess we will just have to call an ambulance.”
Belew says that trainers are there for player’s health and can provide stabilization and preventative measures for players in all sports.
“In the event of a serious injury they can stabilize and have the parents determine whether or not to take the player to the emergency room themselves. Now the ambulance will just haul them away,” he said.
Unfortunately, the ramifications of not having a trainer present were evident during a THS scrimmage last week. A player suffered a broken ankle and serious knee injury, and coaches were unable to help the player in an adequate manner while they waited 30 minutes for an ambulance to respond.
“What can coaches really do? They are only certified in CPR- they aren’t trained or certified to treat those kinds of injuries,” said Belew.
TurlockCityNews.com has learned that a meeting was held Monday between both Pitman and Turlock High principals and TUSD administration and it was determined that athletic trainer overtime would not be authorized. It is believed from sources that it would cost $15,000 for trainers to be present before, during and after both schools' games.
“Trainers are very valuable to players' health and that is what is upsetting. They not only take care of injuries on the field but also continue to provide therapy for the players until they are healed. They also tape players before the games to prevent injuries,” said Green.
California School Employees Association Representative Kyle Harvey indicated that there are education code, contract violations and liability issues that need to be discussed with district officials before a scheduling change can be discussed. Harvey says the CSEA, the trainers and the district plan to meet in the coming days.
“The CSEA is very upset about this. I understand there was an injury at the game and this is very disturbing. The district has some real liability issues here,” said Harvey.
At the TUSD Board of Trustees Meeting Tuesday evening Jim Green’s wife, Christine Green, spoke during public comment, indicating her displeasure with the possibility to not having trainers during games. She says it is important to have an independent, third party evaluation for concussions.
“I understand that (budget) cuts sometimes need to be done, however I do not think it should impact student safety,” she said.
Trustee Bob Weaver said the board or district could not discuss the comment as it was not on the agenda.
Ambulances and emergency medical personnel will be on hand at both Turlock and Pitman High games this season via American Medical Response ambulance services.