10/30/13 School board passes first reading on athletic policy for eligibility to play sports

School board passes first reading on athletic policy for eligibility to play sports
By KAREN CARTER, Enterprise Editor The Mebane Enterprise 10/30/13  
Reprinted with permission.      

A first reading of an athletic eligibility policy passed at the local board of education meeting Monday evening.

The policy says that beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, student-athletes must earn a weighted GPA (grade point average) of 2.0 or higher during the semester immediately prior to the semester of athletic participation. This GPA requirement shall not apply to rising ninth grade students with respect to their ability to participate in sports during their first semester of high school (Policy 4710).

The school board has not required a weighted GPA in the past in order for students to play sports and much discussion has taken place over the last few months before this policy was approved on first reading Monday evening.

Because of input from a number of stakeholders, a probationary status clause was also added to the policy.

“If, at the end of the semester, a student does not meet the GPA requirement, but receives no more than one failing grade he or she will be allowed to participate in athletics on a probationary status upon the development of a personal education plan or academic improvement plan developed and signed by the student, the coach, the teachers, and the student’s parent/guardian, which plan shall include monitoring of academic progress by the coach and school guidance counselor.” (Policy 4710).

With a satisfactory progress report, the student may play sports.

If the student does not show satisfactory progress, the student will not be allowed to continue to play sports until he or she becomes eligible again.

During discussion of the policy Monday evening by school board members,

Jackie Cole shared a concern that the policy selects or points out athletes as the only group to be held accountable for a core GPA. She also emphasized the importance of the role coaches have with players and the impact upon their lives with the after school programs.

Chairman Tony Rose said he had heard comments and concerns of students saying that they did not know their weighted GPA since it is not represented in their report card.

Rose said he had also heard comments that the policy singles out and targets athletes, not dance or other extra-curricular programs, and because of that factor, a concern exists that the school board is “picking on” athletes with a punitive policy.

Rose said he agreed that other extra-curricular programs should be added.

Board member Brad Evans suggested that perhaps the policy should go back to the work session. That remark drew fire from vice chair Patsy Simpson who said there was no need for sending it back. Simpson said she had heard nothing but positive feedback.

Rose said that the policy protects the mentoring relationship between coaches and students by having the probationary clause to meet the requirements of improving a GPA.

Steve Van Pelt said the policy provided a “safeguard” and hoped hat it would serve as a “stepping stone” to prepare students academically and give them the chance to play sports.

Pam Thompson said the policy sets “higher standards” for student athletes that in the past when the schools did not have a policy.

Kristen Moffitt said she was not in favor of the policy. “All extra-curricular programs and activities should be treated the same; they are an extension of the classroom.”

Moffitt said she did not agree with the GPA for it either as well as the policy being unfair, singling out athletes. She also said she wanted to support the mentorships from coaches and the sponsoring of teachers who work with the student-athletes.

The policies 4710 and 3180 are on the Alamance-Burlington School System website www.abss.k12.nc.us for review and comments before it goes for a second reading.