Lake Schools is planning to go ahead with a donkey basketball fund-raiser at its high school today despite several efforts to stop the event.
Virginia Holmes of Walbridge, who has two elementary-aged children in the district, has set up a petition on a Web site to sign in favor of banning the event. As of Monday afternoon, the petition, which can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/bandonkeyball, had 364 signatures.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also sent out an Action Alert via email urging recipients to send Lake Schools officials emails expressing their concerns about the game. They suggested addressing them to Jim Witt, superintendent of schools; Lee Herman, principal of Lake High School; and Dolores Swineford, assistant principal of Lake High School.
None of the three replied to attempts for comment Monday.
“Donkey basketball games are loud, chaotic, and utterly bizarre events in which docile animals are pulled, shoved, screamed at, whipped, and forced to carry riders who are too heavy for them,” said Gemma Vaughan, a caseworker in PETA’s cruelty investigations department.
“Used again and again, the donkeys are lugged from place to place for months on end in small, poorly ventilated vehicles — with no consideration for their welfare, safety, or happiness.”
Equines subjected to such stress can develop unpredictable temperaments that put riders and bystanders at risk, Ms. Vaughan said.
“There has been a record of injuries associated with donkey basketball games, including a case in which an injured participant successfully sued a school for more than $110,000 in damages,” she added.
Mrs. Holmes calls the event “sadistic” and said she is concerned the district is getting away from its professed values: “responsible,” “respectful,” and “ready to learn.”
“There is nothing ‘responsible’ or ‘respectful’ about teaching the children that abuse and humiliation is OK if the target is an animal,” she said. “This behavior should not be allowed or encouraged in any of its forms.”
Mrs. Holmes wrote a letter to Mr. Witt and copied Mr. Herman and Ms. Swineford.
The high school principal responded, stating that in past games, he never witnessed abuse of the animals.
The school’s superintendent also responded to her letter.
“He said he discussed the petition with the principals, and they decided to continue with the fund-raiser plans as they have a non-refundable deposit they would lose and an extra fee charge for cancelling so close [to] the date,” she said.
Mrs. Holmes said her research turned up no similar events in northwest Ohio.
“This is the only district that is doing it,” she said. “Others do an ‘all-stars’ basketball fund-raiser and other events. Springfield Schools used to do it but has stopped.”
The Ohio Voters for Companion Animals also is urging area residents to voice their concerns to the school district’s leaders. The group posted about the event on its Facebook page.
Horses for Life, a national group dedicated to ending horse abuse, also posted about the event, saying: “We are not endorsing this activity, we are asking people to take action to have this activity stopped. No donkey should be used as a makeshift party favor, nor should young people be given the message that this sort of objectification is acceptable.”
The school district’s Web site states that advance tickets for the event are $6, while tickets at the door are $8. Children 6 and under are free. Funds raised will be used for events for graduating seniors.
The school invites children as young as preschoolers to be spectators, Mrs. Holmes said.
“There’s another serious, but delicate, side of this event: The bullying,” she said.
“Since the donkey does not care if people call it names, mock him, or use put-downs and humiliation, the school brings young children to engage in it. But bullying is bullying regardless of the target. The school is encouraging this as acceptable, and this is so bad for our young children.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6066.