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Special School District of St. Louis County

Character Scores Big at Northview

“The scoreboard’s not working today for some reason,” said Anthony Forneris, physical education teacher at SSD’s Northview High School. But on this day, the score of the games takes a back seat to the rest of the game day activities.

Several times per year, Forneris organizes a character-based basketball event for the whole school.

Northview does not have a traditional basketball team like most other high schools, which is what spurred Forneris to start the Character Basketball program. Students sign up to play, and are split into several teams based on their basketball abilities. But to remain on the team, they have to stay in good standing with their grades, behavior and character.

“If a teacher catches you doing things right, you can get points toward playing,” said Jay, a student player. “But if I’m acting up, I can get taken off the team.”

And for students who don’t like to play basketball?

“We also have about 20-25 very loud cheerleaders, “ Forneris said. “It’s the talk of the school when we have these games. Everyone comes to the gym to have a good time with it.”

But it’s not just Northview staff and students who participate. Forneris has worked with other schools in the area to bring students to play the Northview squads or to host Northview at their school.

“My favorite is when we play other schools,” Jay said. “We get to make new friends and ask questions of the other players.”

When another school isn’t available to play, Forneris invites first responders to Northview for games and interactions with each other.

On this November afternoon, students prepared a pre-game lunch and visited with members from the Florissant Police Department before splitting up into teams that combined students and police officers on each squad.

“These games are as great for us as they are for the kids,” said Timothy Lowery, former Florissant police chief and current Florissant mayor.  “It’s good for us to be able to interact in a different way with students.”

But with everything, it comes down to character—even on the court.

“Character crosses into the game,” Forneris said, noting that games can sometimes get highly competitive, but students always remain respectful on the court, even if there is a hard foul or close call on a play.

“We can’t have disrespectful students representing our school,” said Chris, who is a second-year captain of the cheerleading squad. “We get to show sportsmanship, be kind, show our best effort and have fun!”

Forneris said the Character Basketball program is part of the school’s overall commitment to character education.

“It’s part of several things we do here on character,” Forneris said. “But students are definitely aware of how it fits in, and know that they can lose the privilege of playing if they don’t stay on top of things. We had a student last year miss several games, and this year he’s improved his behavior and has been able to play much more often.”

A technical difficulty might have kept the scoreboard from working, but in the end, the lessons students learned from these games far outweighed the score.

Published December 2018

students at Northview character basketball game

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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