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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    It’s for humanity, humility in Ledyard

    Ledyard — A fact about institutions, committees and agencies: Their time-honored path to stifle public outrage is to practice inertia. Pay cursory attention. Play the long game. Stall, delay and hope it goes away.

    I’m not suggesting this is the strategy of the Ledyard Board of Education’s ad hoc committee on extracurricular and athletic participation, aimed to examine policy surrounding whether and how magnet school, technical school and home-schooled students are included in Ledyard Public Schools activities.

    But I’m suspicious.

    I’m also flummoxed by how rewriting board policy to become more inclusive somehow creates more discrimination. Chairman Anthony Favry and superintendent Jay Hartling said recently they’re “strongly advised against (it), due to legal liability from potential charges of discrimination.”

    Oxymoron of the day: “Inclusionary discrimination.”

    Once again: Stop telling us that rewriting a board policy in a small town is harder than asking Jesus to edit the Beatitudes. This is about summoning the proper amounts of humility and humanity to practice inclusion, not exclusion, as all our schools should.

    This all began when Ledyard mother (and tennis coach) Ding Allison requested her younger son, Marine Science Magnet High School sophomore Malloch Allison, be allowed to join the Ledyard High School robotics team. Malloch is a member of Ledyard’s tennis team, permissible under the CIAC rule that allows kids to play sports where they live if the sending school (Marine Science in this case) does not offer sports. Current policy in Ledyard allows magnet students to join LHS sports but not other clubs and activities, a common practice in the region.

    It has, sadly, morphed into a cause celebre, suddenly threatening to ban all Ledyard kids who attend out-of-district schools from all extracurricular activities. Hartling said recently, “If we want to open up what essentially comes into dual enrollment, that certainly has implications and can be a broader conversation between myself and the administrators of the magnet schools, too.”

    Holy Hyperbole, Batman. How does participating in robotics and playing tennis constitute “dual enrollment?” And it’s not like the entire Seventh Fleet suddenly wants to join Dungeons and Dragons.

    Remember this one and write it down: The tragedy of life is not that things die. The tragedy is that they grow old and mean.

    And that’s what this is: mean. It’s passive aggressive punishment for kids and their families who cost the town money by choosing a magnet school education in another town. I understand fiscal considerations are omnipresent. But in this case, the town wallet tyrannizes the best needs of kids. All Ledyard kids are created equally. They deserve equitable treatment. And spare me the drivel about magnet kids taking spots away from LHS students on teams and clubs. That’s rhetoric, not reality.

    Not that anybody listens to the kids anymore — it’s rather odious when adults educate kids and patronize them at the same time — but I sat down with six kids last week, all on the tennis team, five on the robotics team. A sampling of their opinions:

    Ronan Allison (Malloch’s brother): “Including more people does absolutely no harm anywhere. The benefits of team experiences are valuable.”

    Sarah Bailey: “Why should Ledyard kids be penalized for thriving in another learning environment? A lot of our ideas get shot down here because we hear ‘no money.’ But robotics is self-funded. I don’t think adding more kids to the robotics team is going to put us into debt.”

    Malloch Allison: “We heard that this would open new lawsuits for discrimination, but how does making programs more inclusive accomplish that?”

    It should be noted that Ding Allison has a petition with more than 500 signatures, about 400 of which are Ledyard residents. That’s 400 votes at election time.

    Plus, there is precedent for inclusion within the robotics program. Dr. Maze Stephan created and ran the YEAR (Young Engineers and Robotics) program from 2011-2020.

    “The YEAR program allowed all students in Ledyard and Gales Ferry plus homeschooled kids along with nine surrounding school’s youth to participate,” Stephan wrote. “Ledyard school buses brought Gallup Hill, Ledyard Center and Ledyard High School along with the Magnet schools bus students to GFS-JL (Gales Ferry/Juliet Long) so they could be in Young Engineers. We never excluded any child who needed or wanted to be in YEAR.”

    The next meeting of the ad hoc committee is Tuesday night. Note to the dramatis personae: Exclusionary policies ought to have no place in our school systems, which purport to stand for inclusion, but instead, overtly or otherwise, uphold denial of opportunity. They certainly espouse the concept of inclusion until their own self-interests are compromised.

    This is a time for humility and humanity, not ramblings that sound like an editorial that has forgotten the point it wants to make.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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