Bullock County High School Beats An Ongoing School Discipline Problem with Sports

Here's a challenge: what would you do about a school that had some discipline problems, building problems, even student and teacher retention problems?

A southeast Alabama high school has found a formula to beat those challenges using sports.

The principal says it began with discipline on the basketball court that now has found its way inside the classroom.

It's a point of pride at Bullock County High School.  For the first time ever the boys basketball eam is ranked first in the state. It's no surprise to their coach, because of something that happened last season.

"To lose in the subregional it was the most difficult thing I had to deal with - and my team," said coach Dedrick Sumpter.

But there is a suprising side light to the newest lofty ranking, because of a promise the coaches and school administrators extracted from the players

"We said, if you're going to go the extra mile to represent us in uniform, we want you to be a model student in the classroom," said Principal Marvin Lowe.

Lowe says when several of the team's athletes started taking academics seriously other kids followed.

Then the school started working on other problems.

"Like how they should act in school. By wearing their shirt tails tucked inside or wearing their pants around their waist," he said.

It helps that Mr Lowe patrols the hallway looking for any number of offenses even enforcing a rule that comes with some irony attached to it, no tennis or basketball shoes allowed.

There is one surprising twist. At one time, the boys were the ones who would fight and try to bully the others.  Now, it's the girls who are having problems.

"The ladies aren't really being the bully but doing more of the arguing and fighting over the guys," Lowe said.

But on the whole, as a result of basketball, a little tough love, and the occasional stop in the hallway Bullock County has seen far fewer disciplinary problems than ever before.

"Just by being a successful team, everybody wants to be a part of it," said Coach Sumpter.

The principal talks about things like 'leadership,' and 'momentum,' saying that after the most influential kids bought into dressing better, doing better academically, and no fighting, the other kids just went along.

There's only one thing that might stop that momentum.

About 25 percent of the school was out sick Tuesday because of the flu.

Flu is also the culprit in one of the few losses the Hornets basketball team has suffered all year. Not on the court - but in the schedule.

About half the team is also sick, so the school cancelled Tuesday night's home game against Saint Jude. They'll try to re-schedule.