Do petitions really work? It’s something I’ve been asking myself of late. Probably because I’ve seen a ton of them floating around.
Honestly, the results have been mixed.
There are two examples of this fad that have taken place in this area recently:
One just up the road in Moscow, where the local school district decided Tuesday to reverse an Aug. 13 decision to play intramural sports and bring back interscholastic sports with travel.
The other is across the border in Washington, where Cole Norah, a senior at Mount Si High School in the Seattle area, posted an online petition asking people to help get high school sports back in the Evergreen State.
The one in Moscow was started by Phil Hutton, who called himself a “concerned parent,” on the progressive website moveon.org around Aug. 14. In it, the petition lays blame at the doorstep of the district administrators and says the athletes were “given false hope that they might have a season” and “it was stripped away by our district administrators ...”
The petition laid out five specific ideas for a safe return for sports. I won’t rehash them again, as I did so in an Aug. 16 column.
The point in this case is the petition — along with a survey the school district sent to parents of all students in the district — worked like a charm. The school board, by a 4-1 decision, decided to bring back competitive sports to the district.
The petition only had 573 of 600 signatures, but its voice was amplified (as many things are these days) on social media. Hutton shared it to a Facebook group called YES to Fall sports in Idaho, which he became a member Aug. 15. The original post elicited 61 reactions and 48 comments. Some of the comments were thoughtful and engaging. Some were ... let’s just leave it there.
But the power of petitions and social media worked in this case. Hutton posted again on the same Facebook page after the Tuesday board result: “WE FOUGHT! WE WON! MOSCOW GETS TO PLAY!!” That post generated 506 reactions, the majority thumbs-up, and included 43 comments. Most of the comments offered congratulations for getting interscholastic sports to return.
The latest petition came from Norah, who posted his early Monday morning to change.org and used his social media accounts to get the most traction. The petition, which acts as an open letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, states the athletes’ voices are not ones being heard, and gives four reasons why it would best serve to conduct interscholastic sports in the fall instead of the spring: depression, volatile home situations, stress on single-parent households and the inability to earn college scholarships.
The letter states that most juvenile crime takes place between 3 and 5:30 p.m., coincidentally the same times practices and games would be taking place. It also says the athletes understand not to go near those who are older and the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, but also states it’s been the grandparents of these athletes who have been the most vocal in their support of a return to play.
Then comes the hook to Inslee himself: “In conclusion, we know you were a very accomplished and star HS athlete. You understand better than most the importance of us participating in Fall sports. We are asking you to consider instituting the change that will allow us to return to our activities and athletics in September.”
The petition currently has more than 25,000 signatures out of a 35,000 goal. The plan was for a peaceful march Thursday in Olympia.
I’m all for the kids. Let’s face it, they need something as a release. There’s no question being home and physically distant, for the most part, since the pandemic hit in March has worn on their mental and physical well-being.
The question still remains: Can they do it safely? I’m not sure they can, but I’m no epidemiologist and I’m not gonna play one in this space.
However, it does go to show two things: the power you can wield on social media and good, old-fashioned petitions still do work.
Maybe I’ll start one. First, I have to figure out which cause I want to support.
Donn Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @waldo9939.