Students and Crime Debated

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A high school football player in Rankin County has been charged and indicted by a grand jury on a felony drug charge. Despite the pending case, the student has been allowed to stay on the football team. The controversy is spreading statewide.

The Clarion Ledger newspaper did not shy away from its view on the controversy.

The situation involves a star high school football player at Northwest Rankin. Jeremy Bibbs has been charged and indicted on a felony drug charge after he was allegedly caught selling crack cocaine.

Following the indictment last Wednesday, Bibbs has been allowed to continue playing on the football team, which shocked Rankin County District Attorney David Clark.

Clark was quoted as saying, "The school administrators, by allowing him to continue to be a hero on the football field and the students knowing that he has been selling crack cocaine, they are making a very poor role model," Clark said.

But some say since the charge did not involve the school, they should be treated as two separate jurisdictions.

"The school system has their own guidelines set up or at least they should, as to a person that has been charged for a crime, whether you're dealing with a sporting event or expelling a student," said Lauderdale County's district attorney Bilbo Mitchell.
But Rankin, like most school districts, has no policy to punish students convicted of an off-campus crime.

The controversy does not really surround the fact that Bibbs is still in school, but the fact he is still on the football team, and while some argue that being a football player is a privilege, not a right, others say athletics play an important role in a student's life, especially in a situation like this.

"Athletes need the athletics sometimes more than the sport needs the athletic event. It gives them an avenue to be positive and constructive," said Meridian High School athletic director Vince McLemore.

Rankin County is standing behind its decision. Bibbs' court appearance isn't until Feb. 14, 2005, after football season. Until then, it appears he will be on the defensive both on and off the field.