The State Board of Education today moved forward with a change that would toughen the eligibility standards for high school athletes. The new rules would raise the standard that now requires athletes to pass four classes, to make them pass all their courses to stay eligible to play. But the board has decided to change the time the students would be benched from one semester — or grading period — to four weeks.
The Board of Education has jurisdiction only over athletics, but the high speech and music associations are looking to adopt the same rules. The Board’s legal consultant, Carol Greta, says the decided on the four weeks because of the differences in school calendars. And she says the shorter suspension would be more of an incentive than a punishment. She says she got input from the directors of all four of the activity (boys’ and girls athletics, speech and music) and decided that if they just used a grading period, some kids would be out for nine weeks and some would be out for 18 weeks — which would be “inequitable”.
Plus, Greta says they know that freshmen are affected much more than upperclassmen. Greta says there was a concern that a freshman might become ineligible and drop out of the sport if they had to sit out a whole grading period. She says there is evidence that students who are involved in extracurricular activities get better grades, so they wanted to keep the kids involved.
Greta says it will mean a change for some districts when it comes to checking grades. She says schools on semester probably check grades at four-and-a-half weeks and they may check at three weeks, but they’ll have to change. She says they chose four weeks because at the start of the school year there may not be grades to check on yet. Under the current system baseball and softball players have to sit out the entire summer season and then four weeks in the spring. The Board has asked Greta to explore the possibility of allowing baseball and softball players to use summer school classes as part of their suspension.
She says that would give those students a chance not to miss their entire season. Greta says she will check back with the directors of the athletic associations for more input on the baseball and softball situation. She says that can then be changed as the process moves forward. She says the rules now get published and then there’ll be public hearings on the changes on January 11th and January 26th and then there’ll be two hearings before a legislative review committee.
Any changes would be made and come back to the board for a final vote. If approved, the new rules would not take effect until the 2006-2007 season. The board voted unanimously to approve the changes. although boardmember Greg McClain of Waterloo said he felt the new rules were “very much diluted” from the original discussion to change the rules. McClain said he voted for the rules today to move the issue forward.