A Carroll County mother is at odds with the school system over an upcoming student assembly because of its association with the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL. At issue is the ongoing domestic violence controversy surrounding the videotape showing former Ravens running back Ray Rice punching then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino and other domestic violence incidents involving NFL players.

Upon receiving an email Tuesday bearing the Ravens logo and featuring the words "Play60 NFL," and asking Piney Ridge Elementary School students to wear purple — one of the Ravens' primary colors — in support of a district-wide Project ACES event on Monday, Sept. 29, parent Misty Otto replied with an email that stated, "With the domestic abuse issues going on in the NFL, I do not want my child participating."

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Carroll County Public Schools and the Ravens have been partnering for the nationwide NFL Play 60 Challenge and Project Active Children Excel in School for six years, said Linda Kemphart, the school system's supervisor of health and physical education.

The Baltimore Ravens gift the school system $6,000 annually to support the program, which encourages students to exercise 60 minutes per day for 14 days, Kemphart said. Students who complete the challenge are eligible for various prizes, some with Ravens' themes.

Last year, 70 percent of Carroll County elementary school students successfully completed the program, she said.

But Otto questioned the school system's judgment in continuing the partnership with the Ravens this year.

"I love the idea of Play60 and Project [ACES] to promote [a] healthy active lifestyle but I do not agree that the NFL can provide proper role models," Otto wrote in an email sent to the school system. "The NFL has a history of violence and poor judgment."

Otto wrote it is "inappropriate" and "disappointing" that the school system is exposing students to "poor role models." She asked how children would understand that some football players are positive role models and others are poor role models in specific situations.

The activity, she wrote, does not align with the CCPS core values.

"Specifically 'Reflecting the priorities, beliefs, and morals of our local community.' and 'Fairness, Honesty, and Respect,' " she wrote.

"I sincerely hope that our school system understands the gravity of domestic abuse and of [its] lifelong lingering [effects]," Otto wrote. "We should not be perpetuating the acceptance of domestic abuse by allowing popular institutions, that make money off the bruised backs of our women and children, come to our school and inspire our children."

Carroll Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said the school system has been partnering with the Ravens on this program for years, and it plans to continue that relationship.

"The assembly and program is for the kids, not fans," Guthrie said. "One parent has expressed concern. ... It's an extreme over-generalization."

Project ACES and NFL Play 60 are designed to promote physical fitness to students that, Kemphart said, studies show helps them perform better in school.

The school system did not expect any backlash because of the program, she said.

School system spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said alternative activities will be provided for any student whose parent or guardian does not want them participating in the Project ACES event Monday.

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"We are concerned about domestic violence," Gaddis said, "but you can't paint the whole team with a broad stroke and refuse to work with them."

Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or krishana.davis@carrollcountytimes.com.

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