ST. GEORGE – A fundraiser held Saturday for the Snow Canyon Lady Warriors rugby team has drawn attention for holding a gun drawing to raise money for the team to go to a national tournament in Wisconsin. As the fundraiser connected firearms with a school club, one St. George citizen raised a voice of concern.
Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, any connection between schools and guns has become a touchy subject, especially as the war for stricter gun control wages on.
Situated along Sunset Boulevard at the time, a sign let passersby know they could enter a drawing to win either a shotgun or rifle for $50. When Dorothy Engelman came across the gun drawing, she said she was quite upset over the matter. She said guns were on display along with baked goods.
“We’re selling cupcakes and guns to raise money for our kids?” Engelman said.
In the wake of tragedies involving firearms, Engelman said the drawing was “an error in judgment” and “insensitive.”
Disturbed by the drawing, Engelman proceeded to contact Snow Canyon High School and media outlets.
Rugby itself is not an officially recognized high school-sanctioned sport like basketball or baseball. Rather, in Snow Canyon’s case, it operates as a club and has a higher level of autonomy than regular high school sports do.
Snow Canyon High School Principal Warren Brooks said an example of the autonomy the rugby club/team exercises can be seen in the fact it has the opportunity to go to a national, out-of-state tournament. Regular high school teams will primarily stay within the state and may go to Las Veges, he said.
“It’s neat for the kids because they can go to nationals,” Brooks said. However, because the club/team and the high school share the same name, Brooks doesn’t want the public to think the school endorsed anything involving guns.
“We want to be supportive of all students,” he said, “but this just put a negative light on things.”
Brooks said the school was aware of the fundraiser, but knew nothing about the gun drawing. Once the school learned about it the fundraiser was shut down.
Brooks said discipline would be applied to the rugby club, but declined to comment directly on the matter.
Cathy Hasfurther, head coach for the team, was also unaware a gun drawing was being held in conjunction with the fundraiser, as the event was overseen by the parents of the rugby players.
“It was 100 percent parent-organized,” she said.
While Brooks said the club may face some form of discipline from the school, Michael Cressler, president of Utah Youth Rugby, the state-level league the Snow Canyon team is affiliated with, said unless local laws have been broken somehow, discipline from the league is unlikely.
While the Snow Canyon Lady Warriors team has to abide by the league’s rules and guidelines, Cressler said it “does not have to monitor or approve” what the various teams do in their fundraisers.
“Unless it involves drugs, alcohol, or pornography,” he said, “we do not prohibit (what the teams do).”
However, if one of the teams violated the league’s rules, Cressler said they could be sanctioned somehow or prohibited from playing.
Still, no one in the league is advocating for guns or gun control in any way, Dressler said.
Each team is also an independent entity unto itself. If anyone, like a coach, were to be disciplined for any form of misconduct not governed by the league’s rules, Dressler said, it would likely be handled by the governing bodies of those club/teams and not passed down from the state level.
As for the commotion caused by the gun drawing, Dressler said: “This is a new one.”
All rugby couches within the state-side organization are also volunteers, he said.
“I’m not paid,” Hasfurther said. She also said her assistant coaches were also volunteers.
If Hasfurther were to face any kind of discipline over the gun drawing at the parent-organized fundraiser, Engelman said the she felt it would be “an extreme reaction” if the head coach happened to be removed.
Despite the commotion caused by the gun drawing, Brooks said, “the rugby team is a fantastic club … They do strive for excellence.”
The Snow Canyon Lady Warriors team isn’t the first in Utah to be objected to due to a gun drawing. Earlier this month, the Uintah Utes youth hockey team in Vernal received a last-minute invite to nationals, and in order to help raise the needed funds for the trip, a raffle was held for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
The AR-15 is one of the firearms reportedly used by Adam Lanza during the Sandy Hook massacre and has since been demonized along with other so-called assault weapons.
Despite a protest from a Uintah High School graduate, the raffle carried on and raised about $5,000, according to KSL.com.
“I don’t think I made an error in judgment,” Engelman said of her decision to address the gun drawing in St. George. “(The gun drawing) was an error in judgment.”
Ed. note: Dorothy Engelman is the chair of the Washington County Democratic Party. In this matter, she expressly said that she was speaking as a private citizen not as a representative of the party. (Added for clarification April 30, 2013.)
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