CONWAY — At least two online petitions calling for more extensive punishment of the Kennett High School football players who were involved in a duck killing incident last month have gathered well over 1,000 signatures.
A Conway Daily Sun story last week reported that three to six Eagles would be suspended from several football games as punishment for the attack on the waterfowl at a football camp that took place in August at Camp Winaukee in Moultonborough.
None of the players is a senior. There are 56 players on the team.
According to a lawyer for Camp Winaukee, Kennett leased the premises after the camp season ended. “The owners and management of Camp Winaukee had no involvement with the operations or supervision of the football camp or its attendees,” attorney William Hoch said.
A video of the incident posted online shows a boy standing with a broom in his hand swinging the handle down with force on one of several ducks by his feet. A boy next to him appears to throw food on the ground. A few other boys standing around them can be heard chuckling.
The story has been picked up not only by WMUR, but news outlets like CBS Boston, the New York Post and The Associated Press.
Fish and Game Col. Kevin Jordan, who oversees the law enforcement division at the department, said after the duck was beaten, another student tried to put it out of its misery by wringing its neck.
According to Jordan and School Superintendent Kevin Richard, the boys were suspended from up to five games out of the nine regular football season and ordered to do community service. Richard said their mental health, educational and social-emotional components were also part of the district’s response to the incident.
Jordan said Fish and Game felt it made more sense to have punishment for the boys come from the school than through his agency, which at most could have given the boys’ parents a small fine for taking a waterfowl illegally.
The larger community has expressed outrage in letters to the editor and all over Facebook. At least two people have posted petitions on change.org.
Taylor Garland of Bartlett’s petition had garnered about 1,300 signatures as of midday Monday.
“Words can’t describe how angry I am at all people who are letting this go on without severe punishment,” Garland says in the intro to the petition (to see it, go to tinyurl.com/duckpetition1). “You football players bring a lot of shame and disgrace to all students, athletes, teachers, admin and our school overall.”
The signers can leave comments as well.
“This is just so disgusting and appalling to me!” says commenter Stacy Jonson. “If they can do this to an innocent duck, what would they do to an innocent dog or cat!”
The other petition (tinyurl.com/duckpetition2) was started by Mikayla McCarthy, 19, of Ossipee, who graduated from Kingswood Regional High School in June. “I initially made the petition because I feel that nothing was really done the right way to discipline these kids,” McCarthy told the Sun on Monday. “It’s basically a slap on the wrist. I just wanted to show ... that over 1,000 people agree that something else should be done about it.”
She didn’t think suspensions and community service would be enough. As of about noon on Monday, it had about 1,150 signatures. McCarthy said she plans to eventually deliver the petition to Kennett’s athletic department.
Reached Monday afternoon, Richard said the Sun would be given a press released after the Conway School Board met Monday evening.
There may be protests at the Kennett’s home football game, based on a post made on The Conway Daily Sun’s Facebook page by Angelique Sawyer, an eye doctor who owns Conway Eye Care. Sawyer said she would pull her support from Kennett High Athletics unless the players are removed from the team.
“I will be attending the Conway School Board meeting this Monday night at 6:30 to voice my concerns,” said Sawyer. “If still necessary, I will plan a protest at Friday night’s home football game. I am prepared to make this a BIG DEAL if the proper authorities won’t do so themselves.”
The Kennett Eagles host Pembroke Academy on Friday.
Fish and Game put out a statement on its Facebook page. “Regarding the situation with the children who killed a duck last week, the media were not originally aware of the entire situation,” said Fish and Game. “The children involved did receive substantial consequences including community service involving working with animals.
“All issues raised with Fish and Game are being addressed. Fish and Game Law Enforcement feels the school acted swiftly and appropriately and worked with them from the beginning.”
Asked about the state animal cruelty law, Jordan said a better-fitting statute would be the “taking” of a waterfowl illegally. The definition of “take” is broad and includes chasing, injuring and killing. He said the offense would be punishable by a fine.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the animal cruelty law only covers a “wild animal in captivity,” but that wouldn’t necessarily apply to the duck.
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States supported failed legislation intended to address the loophole. The Fish and Game Marine Resources Committee voted 12 to 7 to HB 1412-FN to interim study. The bill was laid on the table, which means set aside.
Rep. James Spillane (R-Deerfield), who wrote the statement of intent for the committee, said the bill didn’t clearly define “captive animal,” and Fish and Game advised it would cloud the definition of “take.”
Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield) sits on the House Fish and Game committee. He said parents must teach their children there are consequences for their actions.
“It is not acceptable to hit a duck with a broom as it is not acceptable to talk out of both sides of your mouth,” said Comeau in a statement. “No law, no rule, can instill into a person’s soul the value of life. No law, no rule, can teach discernment. The only solution here is: ‘To lead by example.'"