Editorial on NL sports eligibility was out of touch with reality

I can't express how disappointed I was in reading the March 1 editorial, "Higher standards the right call for Whalers," concerning the proposed change in academic requirements for participation in athletics at New London High School.

The editorial implies that both New London and the state governing body of athletics, the CIAC, does not take academics and academic integrity very seriously via the "woefully inadequate" statement. What your editorial staff doesn't seem to get is that New London, like many other urban school districts is operating on an uneven playing field, that is, a transient population, a burgeoning population of English Language Learners, disproportionate numbers of Special Needs Students; all of which are propagated by a dismal socio-economic malaise, that permeates New London and other urban school districts, as opposed to suburban schools districts.

Implementation of policies like these in urban school districts are discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious; and I believe they could be challenged in a court of law as they would be enacted against students who are still passing the courses and would graduate even if they had a grade point average of 1.0. By implementing a constrictive academic requirement policy, you would be hurting those students who are not recalcitrant but those who are on the fringe, who attend school regularly, may have a learning disability or two and are passing albeit at the minimal level

As you may be aware, I was the former director of athletics, who along with former Principal Lou Allen, crafted an academic policy that worked and kept athletes eligible and had them make bona-fide progress toward graduation, which was not constrictive in nature, yet held the students accountable. That program was summarily "thrown under the bus" by a subsequent administration five or six years ago and the academic support program has been floundering ever since.

In addition to the academic policy, we had an Academic Support Program that was a stipend position, run by two non-coaches. The program was mandatory for all members of all athletic teams in season and voluntary for out-of-season athletes as well. There were guidelines to insure compliance from athletes and coaches, producing an agreeable and successful program.

Mandating a mandatory grade point average that supersedes the CIAC academic requirements for participation is in my opinion, grandstanding. First and foremost, CAS-CIAC is run by former principals and administrators. If, in their infinite wisdom, a more restrictive academic requirement was needed they would have instituted a statewide policy for all student athletes. Furthermore, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national governing body of high school athletics, likewise has no constrictive academic requirements. While the idea may be well intentioned, it is bad in practice.

I felt the editorial was jaded and took on a pro-restrictive academic requirement tone without investigation or seeking input from those with opposing views.

You would be hard pressed to find any empirical evidence that would support a contention that constrictive academic requirements benefit academic improvement in urban school districts

It is easy to be sanctimonious and make scapegoats out of our athletes and coaches. In my opinion, such scapegoating is the driving force behind this initiative.

Leo Facchini is a science teacher at New London High School.


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