Bits & Pieces: New Academic Eligibility Policy gets failing grade

The Academic Eligibility Policy for High School Extracurricular Activities effective July 1 contains something on page two under the heading "Standards" that not only caught my attention, but also almost single-handedly undermined my efforts over the years to stress academics over athletics. The sentence that riled me up states: "For high school, a full-time student earns academic eligibility by maintaining a 2.0 grade point average (GPA), calculated using credit or noncredit courses, with no more than one failing grade for the marking period which governs eligibility for that activity."

I read that to mean that an athlete can flunk a course and still remain academically eligible. It might be just my generation, but I just heard the sound of lots of people saying, "You've got to be kidding me." Flunk and play just doesn't seem right.

I realize that this means that a lot more kids can now play sports and get involved in other extracurricular activities. However, the Howard County Public School System does not exist to allow more kids to participate in extracurricular activities. Its business is to educate and not condone failure. Flunking a course is a failure by the student, the parents and, yes, even the school system. Students should not be given a free pass. When and if they graduate, students who fail classes, and are allowed to take part in extracurricular activities, will discover that society offers no free passes.

When I was in school, receiving a failing grade was taboo. I once received less than an "A" in a history class in high school and was frightened to show my parents the grade. And I readily admit that I am not up on the new thinking of educators today. I believe one failing grade means no extracurricular activity. If those activities are that important to a student, then that student will simply have to work harder, get tutoring and get the grades up. Many years ago a former teacher told me: "You have to really work hard to fail a course here."

No policy should condone failure.

Zitnay to be honored

The Legends of Softball Hall of Fame, a Florida Senior Sports Association Board, will induct senior softball players who have become legends of that sport nationally. They inducted eleven players last year in Las Vegas and will add one or two more this year. One of those will be our own Andy Zitnay, who probably can hit a softball farther than anyone I have ever seen. Andy has been a standout for years, has played softball in venues throughout the country and can not only talk the talk, but can also walk the walk.

Concussion awareness

In September of 2010, I attended a concussion prevention event at Reservoir High School, headed by Dr. Peter Beilenson of the County's Health Department. Soon after, the Howard County Public School System became the first school system to implement a concussion awareness program in the State of Maryland. That event was an eye opener for me, as two high school students spoke about their battles with concussions. The concussion awareness program included baseline testing for all athletes involved in contact sports, an education process for coaches and trainers in recognizing concussions, and the removal of players who suffered concussions until medically cleared to return to play

Three years later, the Maryland State Department of Education is recommending policies to protect students by limiting live drills that require hitting and limiting those practices to twice weekly during the season. Football and boys lacrosse are specifically identified as collision-type sports and therefore their coaches will have to restrict contact in practices.

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