Pinkerton Academy's decision not to allow a student charged with sexual assault play football is the right one. Participation in school sports is a privilege, not a right. The school says it will re-examine its decision when Daniel LaGrange's court case is resolved.

LaGrange, 17, and Michael Mahoney, 17, both of Derry, were each charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault and statutory rape, crimes that could send them to prison for several years.

The charges stem from an incident in late June. According to court documents, LaGrange and Mahoney went to a sleepover in a family camper outside a Londonderry home where two 15-year-old girls and a 14-year-old girl were staying. They brought a bottle of vodka and the 15-year-old girls had several shots.

According to police, the 14-year-old girl said that LaGrange had sex with one of the 15-year-olds, who was not moving and had her eyes closed. The girl said Mahoney had sex with the other 15-year-old.

Mahoney and LaGrange were released on $25,000 personal recognizance and are under house arrest as a condition of their bail. They must be home by 2:30 p.m. once school is back in session. The pair will be in court Aug. 13 for a probable cause hearing.

While these are serious charges, neither Mahoney nor LaGrange has been proven guilty. They continue to be enrolled as students at Pinkerton pending the outcome of their cases.

Football, however, is a lesser matter. Young people have a right to a free, public education. They do not, however, have an unlimited right to participate in extracurricular activities such as football.

Pinkerton, like other schools, has a code of conduct for its student athletes. Pinkerton can prohibit students from participating in sports if they violate a code of ethics or school rules, if they exhibit poor moral conduct or if they engage in alcohol, tobacco or drug use.

Mahoney does not participate in school sports. LaGrange was on the football team last year. LaGrange's bail conditions allowed him to leave home for football tryouts beginning next week.

But school sports are the least of worries for these two boys. They are facing charges that they have committed heinous crimes. If they are found guilty, they will deserve prison time. Their legal defense and ordinary school work will be plenty to occupy their time.

Pinkerton officials, in recognizing the difference between the right to an education and the privilege of playing football, are handling this matter appropriately.

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