School athletic policies questioned

PAT FRIDGEN

A concern that girls were being held to a higher standard than boys led a Greencastle man to challenge sports team tryout policies of the Greencastle-Antrim School District. Max Houck met with the school board in executive session Sept. 3 and publicly addressed the members Oct. 1. His comments led to one change for all athletes.

Houck was critical of the standards for field hockey, which took into consideration a student's school attendance and grade point average, in addition to skills exhibited during tryouts. He was unaware of any other sport that looked at the first two criteria. He was only able to obtain from the school the coaching forms for volleyball and cheerleading, which rated playing skills only.

Because the same standards were not applied across the board, to both male and female athletes, he believed girls in field hockey did not receive equal opportunity to make a team compared to the students in every other sport.

Houck suggested the school therefore violated Title IX and other non-discrimination policies, the high school Student Code of Conduct, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

He alleged the field hockey coaches accessed pupil records without parental permission, information that should only be available to school officials with legitimate educational interest. He denied that disciplinary issues, absences or cumulative grades from the previous spring should affect fall tryouts, because administration, which had the enforcement power for conduct issues, would not have permitted such students to attend the tryout camp in the first place. In addition, grades only applied to participation once on a team, not for tryouts, according to the handbook.

Houck said that prior to August, G-ASD had an athletic and student activities policy in full compliance with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association eligibility policy.

He told the school board he disagreed with its decision, made known to him in a letter dated Sept. 8, that the coaches followed proper procedures.

"I am a taxpayer and an advocate for fair treatment, equal rights and equal opportunity for all," he said. "It's time to listen while the cognizant federal and state agencies speak. This is not an issue of what we may plan to change in the future. It is an issue of what happened in August 2009."

School opinion

Supt. C. Gregory Hoover said the school board reviewed the case and decided the field hockey coaches did nothing wrong. Beginning under the tenure of a former athletic director, teams adopted a policy that if players were cut during tryouts, the coaches told them why, based on a rubrik they each created for their sport. Hoover said both field hockey and boys’ basketball used grades and attendance in determining who made the team. From now on, the school was going to require all sports to do the same.

He said coaches were considered school officials, but that they received GPA and attendance information through channels. Teachers submit eligibility lists to the assistant principals each week. They in turn give the names to the athletic director, who notifies the coaches if a player is ineligible to play the following week. The standards dictate a student may not be failing more than one full-credit class.

"Most students do the grades," he said.

He stressed that the school district considered athletics as co-curricular and part of the educational program. "Definitely, grades and attendance play a role."

As far as PIAA was concerned, it set standards for eligibility during a season, but did not get involved in team selection, Hoover said.