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Manchester school district considering athletic code changes

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 10. 2015 11:50PM

MANCHESTER — School officials are considering policy changes that would make it harder for students who do not maintain passing grades and satisfactory attendance to participate in sports.

The changes, which were discussed by the school board’s athletics committee on Tuesday, could result in the district’s “Athletic Code” being made stricter and more uniform from school to school.

The review began earlier this year, after reports that a high school basketball player was allowed to continue to play, despite poor grades and being considered for suspension for allegedly assaulting another student.

The matter has been pressed by Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry, who pointed to language in the current code stating that habitual absences before or after a game “may result in suspension from the team.” He said “may” should be changed to “shall.”

“If a student is not going to school, they shouldn’t be playing sports,” he said.

Beaudry pointed to similar language in other parts of the policy concerning students that have poor grades or commit bullying, misconduct or a criminal act “on or off school grounds.” The policy says such students “may be immediately suspended pending investigation,” but does not mandate suspension. Beaudry also suggested that students’ records in eighth grade should determine if they could participate in sports as freshmen in high school. Currently freshmen athletes start with “clean slate,” Athletics Director Chris Donovan said.

The district’s current policy is based on the guidelines of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which require that student-athletes pass a minimum of four “units” per grading period to participate in sports, and that they not fail more than one course during the previous period.

Donovan said he had recently begun discussions with school principals on how to better enforce the code. “It’s certainly on my radar,” he said.

School board members have also raised concerns that students’ grades are not being adequately communicated to coaches.

Ward 1 school board member Sarah Ambrogi, the chairman of the athletics committee, agreed that changes may be in order for the athletic code, but she said she wanted to bring school leaders and others into the discussion. “I look forward to having the principals here,” she said.

No action was taken on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting.

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