Nashua passes student athlete policy

NASHUA – After several months of gathering input and tweaking language, the board of education finally settled Monday night on changes to the academic and behavioral expectations for student athletes.

The new policy will relax the academic eligibility standards for middle and high school students who want to take part in sports, a move that the board has been considering since April.

The policy also covers students taking part in other extracurricular activities, such as academic clubs or student government.

Under the new policy, if a student fails a course in the previous marking period but maintains a C-minus average, the student will still be “conditionally eligible” to take part in the sport or activity.

The previous policy had a “no-fail” requirement, restricting any students who failed a course or who did not maintain a C-minus average from taking part in extracurricular activities, unless the principal granted a waiver.

The vote on the policy was 5-2. Board members Steve Haas, Dennis Hogan, Tom Vaughan, Sandra Ziehm and William Mosher voted in favor; board members Jack Kelley and Robert Hallowell voted against.

The new policy will go into effect Nov. 17. The board had previously voted to not implement any changes to the policy until next year but went against that vote Monday night.

The state’s minimum standards, as outlined by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, mandate that schools with a four-block schedule require students to pass at least two of four courses to play sports.

The district’s new standards, though relaxed, would still be more stringent than the minimum standards of the NHIAA.

Much of the discussion at Monday night’s meeting focused on the part of the proposed policy that deals with behavioral standards.

The old policy outlined a list of substances that students, if found to be in possession or charged with possession, would be suspended from extracurricular activities.

The previous policy included tobacco as one of those substances for students younger than 18, but the new policy being considered Monday had eliminated tobacco from the list.

Hogan, chairman of the board’s policy committee, said that was done because, although harmful, tobacco should not carry the same offenses as alcohol and more serious illegal drugs.

“I don’t think it’s on the same par,” he said.

Other board members said removing tobacco from the list of banned substances implies that the district condones its use.

“By us removing it from this policy, we are sending the wrong message to students about a very addictive product,” said board member Kelley.

Board members Kelley and Haas voted to put tobacco back on the list, but they were overruled, and it stayed off. Hazing, illegal gambling and assault are among the behaviors also restricted.

The new policy also defines possession as “direct physical control,” “joint possession” or “having both the power and intention to exercise control over something.”

The old policy also included “being in the presence of” an illegal substance as possession.

Students in violation of the behavioral expectations will be suspended for 14 days on the first violation and must complete five hours of counseling. A second violation requires a 21-day suspension.

The third violation comes with a yearlong suspension.

With respect to academics, as part of “conditional eligibility,” students must meet each week with their coach or activity advisor and review their academic status report.

If the student can go the next semester without failing a course and keeping a C-minus average, the student is restored to full eligibility.

For students who don’t meet the academic standards and want to appeal, the new policy creates a “waiver board,” which includes the coach, a teacher and the principal. In the past, only the principal was responsible for granting or denying appeals.

Those who opposed changes to the policy argued that by relaxing the academic standards to play sports, the district was sending the wrong message to its students.

Angelo Fantasia, the district’s previous director of athletics, originally raised the issue, saying that the policy was keeping too many students from taking part. Fantasia had said a quarter of all students were ineligible under the old policy.

It’s not known how many students will be eligible under the new policy.

Web refer: To view a copy of the new policy, visit