Requirements for sports unchanged

NASHUA – If the school board ultimately decides to relax the academic requirements to play sports, the changes won’t be in place for the upcoming school year.

On Monday night, the school board again discussed whether to change to the district’s policy on the academic and behavioral standards for athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Since April, the board has been considering whether to lower the academic standards, allowing for students to fail one course, but still take part in sports and other activities.

At the meeting, the board did not take action on the proposed changes, tabling the new policy until the next meeting.

The board did vote in favor of making any changes that are eventually approved effective at the start of the 2009-10 school year.

Tom Vaughan, president of the school board, said he was concerned “it might cause some sort of confusion” to change the policy just before the school year or in the middle of the year.

Student handbooks have been distributed, which include the current policy, he said.

“There may be students who already have a certain line of expectations,” he said.

Currently, district policy requires that students maintain a C-minus average and not fail any courses to play sports and other activities such as student council and drama.

There is a waiver process, but some have complained that it’s too strict and too few are granted.

Under the proposed changes, students could fail one course and still be allowed to play sports and take part in other activities but would still have to maintain a C-minus average in the semester preceding the sport or activity.

Students that failed one course but maintained a C-minus average would be granted conditional eligibility and would be required to meet weekly with their coach or activity adviser and review their academic progress.

Peter Casey, the district’s new athletic director, spoke in favor of the changes at the meeting. Casey’s predecessor, Angelo Fantasia, had initially recommended lowering the requirements so more students could take part.

Casey said he agrees.

“Our goal is to increase participation,” he said.

Fantasia had said the district’s policy was excluding approximately a quarter of all students from taking part.

The district’s current “no fail” policy goes far above the minimum requirements set forth by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which allows for students to fail two courses and still take part the following semester.

The proposed changes to the policy would still be more stringent than the NHIAA standards.

Board member Steve Haas said he has no concern about holding students to too high of a standard.

“They’re representing the school and with that comes some responsibility,” he said.

There was also concern about implementing the policy changes before some additional steps are taken, including defining what constitutes “possession” when referring to alcohol and illegal drugs.

Students found in possession of illegal drugs and alcohol can be suspended from taking part in sports and other activities.

“It’s hard to enforce a policy without those guidelines,” Haas said.

Another of the proposed changes is to remove tobacco from the list of substances that could lead to suspension from the team.

Board member Dennis Hogan said that was done because in the current policy the penalties for tobacco are the same as those for alcohol and other illegal drugs.

“I just don’t think it is on par,” Hogan said.

The board voted to keep that particular change in the new proposed policy.