Safety concerns tank Jupiter High’s tackle powder-puff


The 50-year tackle tradition for powder puff at Jupiter High has come to an end. The junior and senior girls have been given a choice to face off in a game of flag football or kickball instead.

Safety was the deciding factor, Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen said Thursday.

Despite arguments to the contrary from a vocal faction of students and parents, the equipment and training time the girls anticipated were not adequate, the district’s risk management and legal experts concluded, Christiansen said.

The principal met with students after school Thursday and gave them those two options. A third would be to hold an event off campus, but it could not be associated in any way with the school, students reported. Students and parents planned to meet at a local church Thursday night to discuss their next steps.

The news disappointed Jupiter High senior Savannah Tardonia, who already plays on the school’s girls varsity flag football team.

“It’s going to be sad that this 50-year-old tradition will no longer carry on,” said Tardonia, who was among about a dozen students to attend Wednesday night’s school board meeting to plead their case.

The students weren’t the only ones fighting to keep the clock running on the tackle game. Parents and alum were among the more than 2,800 to sign an online petition in support.

“The community is in an uproar. The board office got lots and lots of emails,” school board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri said at meeting’s end. Even he had some sympathy for their plight.

“I don’t understand the rationale that girls can apply for the boys football team, but they can’t have their own game after 50 years of doing this,” Barbieri said. “If the parents want it, the community wants it, the girls want it, it’s safe, I don’t understand why they’re changing a procedure that’s been in place 50 years.”

Principal Dan Frank, who came to the school three years ago, says he pulled the plug on tackle after reviewing the game’s history – including the injuries. “I’ve been reviewing all our activities and this is one where the risks outweigh any possible benefits,” Frank said.

The school’s former head coach and athletic director, Charlie Persson, said this week that he did recall some “bad injuries” – they weren’t common and they also didn’t stop him from sending his own daughter onto the field in her junior and senior years.

And while the girls and their parents contend they have answered the need for safe equipment by tapping the community’s youth league program, district staff disagreed.

The equipment in question isn’t the right fit, Christiansen said. There is equipment made for girls, but what they would be using isn’t.

“And gear that doesn’t fit properly won’t protect,” he said, adding that staff sought insight from other large urban Florida districts and found “no one has tackle for girls.”

Training time was another consideration. “From playing football myself, I will tell you, you go through a full process before you go on the field. To learn how to use the equipment, to know how to use it safely is pretty serious,” Christiansen said.

“It’s not a gender issue,” Christiansen said. “It’s more about safety. If they got girls’ helmets and that, and risk management was OK with it and we had liability insurance for it, yes (they could play). But I don’t believe that’s doable by next Friday. It’s really about keeping our students safe and being reasonable and rational about that.”

The gender-bending powder-puff game that also sees the boys become cheerleaders was scheduled for May 6. The freshmen and sophomore girls are still on for the traditional best-of-five tug of war.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Man shot to death in Boynton Beach
BREAKING: Man shot to death in Boynton Beach

A man was shot and killed Sunday night at a Boynton Beach park where an estimated 50 people had assembled. The man, who was not identified by Boynton Beach Police, was found shortly after 8 p.m. when police responded to a call of shots fired at Caloosa Park, 1300 S.W. 35th Ave. Officers saw about 50 people quickly dispersing from a basketball court...
NEW: Protesters decry alleged animal abuse at Monkey Jungle
NEW: Protesters decry alleged animal abuse at Monkey Jungle

Closed since Hurricane Irma caused damage in September, Monkey Jungle is still drawing crowds. Unfortunately for the southern Miami-Dade County tourist attraction, the 50 people who showed up Sunday were there to protest what have been called "abysmal" conditions in which hundreds of animals live. A former employee recently accused the 80-year-old...
UPDATE: Toddler dies after being found in suburban Boca pond
UPDATE: Toddler dies after being found in suburban Boca pond

A toddler pulled from a pond in a suburban Boca Raton development Sunday afternoon has died, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Teri Barbera, director of public information for the sheriff’s office, said detectives are investigating the events that led to the child ending up in the pond. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews...
Pahokee favorite son and country music star Mel Tillis dies at 85
Pahokee favorite son and country music star Mel Tillis dies at 85

Mel Tillis, a humble boy from Pahokee who overcame a stubborn stutter to become one of the greatest country music stars of all time, died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala. He was 85. Tillis’ daughter, singer and songwriter Pam Tillis, posted on her Facebook page Sunday that the death was “sudden...
Trump in Palm Beach: President’s helicopter arrives. Will he use it?
Trump in Palm Beach: President’s helicopter arrives. Will he use it?

A huge Air Force transport plane flew over Mar-a-Lago Sunday afternoon before landing at Palm Beach International Airport where it delivered the presidential helicopter. But the delivery of the helicopter does not mean that President Donald Trump will use it to fly back and forth to Mar-a-Lago, where a new helipad was built on the back lawn of the...
More Stories