WCSD sticks to PIAA rules of sports eligibility, for now

Students in Warren County School District athletics can fail classes and still be eligible.

Under PIAA guidelines, students have to be passing at least four credits to be eligible to participate in sports.

The district is operating under PIAA’s guidelines and will follow that rule into the beginning of the 2019 fall season.

After that, the rules may tighten.

During a previous meeting, board member Jeff Labesky suggested the board revisit its eligibility standards.

“I’m prepared to make a motion that for the upcoming school year, regarding athletics and other activities, a student be passing a majority of their classes and failing just one class, not two, until (we have a better) handle on the situation,” Labesky said Monday. “We should be concerned with the credits that the student is passing. What’s more important is the class that he’s failing.”

“We are currently following PIAA,” Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber said. “We could keep doing that. We could go back to something more stringent.”

The district is not opposed to a change, “as long as everyone knows what the rules of the game are,” he said. “I have concerns, but I have concerns about our current policy.”

Chief among those concerns is the timing of reporting, he said. “I was not satisfied with the reporting that I’ve been getting.”

“Our athletic directors were pulling every student’s information by hand,” Weber said. “I think we can adapt the procedures to alleviate that… and rely on people who work with the kids every day.”

Asked if student behavior could be included in the motion, Labesky agreed. “It’s just not the grades,” he said. “If we have a student who’s giving someone a really hard time in class, you don’t play.”

“I think that is just as important as what a student is doing grade-wise,” board President Donna Zariczny said.

While the current standards are set by PIAA and apply to interscholastic sports, Labesky’s motion would expand the activities covered.

“I’m proposing marching band, cheerleading, the county play, anything that’s an advantage to the student,” he said.

Director of Pupil Services Dr. Patricia Hawley pointed out that students may not be prevented from participating due to disabilities and “20 percent of our students are identified as having disabilities.”

“We’re not trying to eliminate somebody that has an issue,” Labesky said.

“We’re going to need to provide some qualifying language for special education,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “We want to make sure we’re meeting our legal obligations with (individualized education plans).”

Weber said he was concerned about the timing. If the motion passes in May the board could approve policy changes at the June meeting. He asked that the proposed changes not take effect until the winter sports season.

“I think it’s a good idea not to rush it,” Labesky said. “Let’s get it right.”

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