Pass to play [Editorial]

The Aegis

The Harford County Board of Education could consider revising its policy on eligibility to participate in extra-curricular activities, such as sports and clubs, which requires a student to be passing all of his or her courses.

Some board members think the policy, which dates to 2006, isn’t as fair as it could be in that a student cannot have one failing grade in the prior quarter to be eligible to participate in activities during the next. There is, however, an appeal process that ultimately ends at the school’s principal.

When first adopted, this no-failing-grade policy was known as “no tolerance,” and it actually evolved over a period of two years, from a standard of allowing up to two failing grades, to only one failing grade to none.

One proposal for change is to weigh all courses in a cumulative average for the quarter — 2.0 – so a low score in one subject might be offset by a high score in another. It was also suggested that a student be given leeway to have a failing grade in the fourth quarter if the cumulative grade for the year is not failing. Thus, the student would be eligible in the first quarter of the next school year.

Not everyone on the board wants to see the no failures policy changed, and we concur with such thinking. In fact, we looked back at the editorial we wrote when the current policy was adopted in 2006 and found our only concern then – as now – lay with an appeal process we felt would tend to undermine the message of no tolerance to students.

What we wrote, in part, was:

Under a new policy on student eligibility for athletics and other extracurricular activities in Harford County public schools, students must be passing all their subjects to participate in such activities beginning with the 2006-07 school year.

In the past we have wondered if this policy, which is being touted as zero tolerance, is fair across-the-board, mainly because we believe there are many high school students who wouldn't be there at all were it not for sports or some other non-academic activity. Is it better to have them drop out rather than to remain in school for something?

Still, we also agree that ultimately you attend school to learn not to play so if the school system is serious about students having to pass all their courses to play, then the new eligibility policy makes perfect sense.

What we don't agree with, however, is the appeal process where a student who is ineligible can appeal, first to an eligibility committee and then to the school's principal, who can allow the failing student to play. The appeal process supposedly allows consideration of illness or problems at home, but all it really does is undermine the no-failing policy and make a mockery of the notion of zero tolerance.

If the policy is going to be no failing grades, then that's what it should be, no failing grades and no appeals. The student with one or more failing grades should be told to bring up those grades – period – and be offered the requisite aid from his or her teachers.

The school system touts its zero tolerance policy on weapons, where even 5-year-olds have to be suspended. It also touts a similar zero tolerance of alcohol or drug possession or use on school property. Why should eligibility be any different? If you can't pass, you shouldn't play no ifs, ands or principals' appeals about it.

The same goes for 2018.

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