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Off-campus boxing rings alarm for parent.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Gayla Hartman has a message for the Springfield High School students who have been leaving at lunchtime to engage in boxing matches: You're not invincible.

Hartman's son, a 15-year-old freshman at North Bend High School on the Oregon Coast, suffered fractures to his face during a similar bout last month, she said. The boy underwent two surgeries and now has a tiny titanium plate in his head to support the bone.

Neither the boy nor his opponent was wearing boxing gloves, and for Springfield students who say they've been using the protective gear, that may be an important distinction.

But not for Hartman.

"When I read this article and these kids are saying it's not dangerous, I was thinking, `I don't think so,' ' Hartman said. "I don't want some other mom to get a phone call like I did."

Impromptu, off-campus lunchtime bouts have been all the rage at Springfield High in recent weeks and the focus of media attention. Concerns about the risks prompted students and parents to meet earlier this week to discuss alternatives, such as the creation of a supervised boxing club, on or off campus.

But a formal club won't necessarily end informal lunchtime boxing off campus. Students know that boxing is legal as long as they don't disrupt the neighborhood, pay the combatants or box to "settle differences," as Dan Bishop, the school's resident police officer, put it.

Superintendent Steve Barrett said Wednesday that school officials will continue to monitor any bouts they find out about, but they have no authority to break them up.

"I don't think we have the right to go anywhere we want just because kids are there and say, `Break it up and get out of here,' ' Barrett said. "If they're not breaking laws, we could be seen as unlawful. We're not just turning our backs on it, but there are private property (laws) and peoples' rights to privacy."

Barrett, who boxed as a kid and never forgot the sting of a shot he took to the nose, applauded the students' efforts to organize a safe event. He said a school boxing club is an option, but he cautioned that insurance and other expenses might make it cost prohibitive.

"You want to take advantage of the youthful vigor," Barrett added, "but you don't want it to be at their expense."

School-sponsored boxing clubs are rare in Oregon, said Tom Welter, executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.

The association, which governs sports for 287 high schools across the state, doesn't sponsor boxing - and neither do any of the OSAA's counterparts nationwide, Welter said.

Nor is Welter aware of any schools in Oregon that sponsor boxing on their own. He suspects that safety and liability issues have KO'd interest in boxing.

"I've been here eight years, and I've never had anyone inquire about boxing," Welter said.

Hartman of North Bend was forced to learn more about boxing after coming home on the afternoon of Feb. 6 to find urgent messages from her husband explaining that their son was in the hospital.

Her son and another freshman had left North Bend High School at lunch, squaring off in a nearby parking lot, the winner expecting to collect the admission paid by spectators, Hartman said.

But the other boy was slightly bigger, Hartman said, and after one punch to the face, her son fell to the ground and began to shake. He ended up in the emergency room, and later underwent surgeries to repair facial fractures and his septum, the thin membrane in the nose.

The boy doesn't remember much about the fight, Hartman said. But his attitude is good, and he's putting the experience behind him.

"He's learned some things," Hartman said. "He had no idea that somebody could be hurt like that. He thought the most it could be was a small black eye or something."
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Title Annotation:But Springfield High School officials say students' impromptu lunchtime bouts are not necessarily illegal; General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 24, 2003
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