ATHLETE’S DISMISSAL RAISES QUESTIONS REGARDING NORTH SHORE SPORTS TEAM ATTENDANCE POLICY AND DEFINITION OF “EXCUSED” ABSENCE
May 19, 2016 -- Although the North Shore School Board did not budge on its decision to uphold the dismissal of a Varsity Softball player from her team for missing three practices, it did indicate at its the May 5 Board of Education public meeting that the District’s Athletics Review Committee would consider changes to the existing athletics attendance policy.
The parents of the player addressed the Trustees at their May 5 public meeting seeking answers as to why the Board had rejected their appeal to have the dismissal overturned.
Their daughter had missed the three practices when she had competed in the United States Women’s Ice Hockey National Championship Tournament in late March. Despite the expulsion, the player had chosen to continue attending practices and games, her father said, although she was not allowed to wear a uniform.
According to the District’s Athletics Policy regarding participation on interscholastic sports teams, a player will be dismissed from a team for three “unexcused” absences from practice. However the policy, published in the Athletics Department's handbook, provides no definition of what an “excused” or “unexcused” absence is.
The mother of the student-athlete said at the May 5 meeting that she and her husband had received an e-mail from the Board President which stated that the Trustees had voted “unanimously” to reject their appeal. To which, at least two of the Trustees replied immediately in concert that it was not unanimous.
Dr. Melnick then explained the vote, saying that “there was a discussion and after that discussion a majority of the Trustees supported adhering to the current policy” regarding the dismissal of student-athletes from teams, but that the Board would direct the Athletics Policy Review Committee to take a look at the attendance policy to consider changes.
The mother said that she was confused with the current policy as there did not seem to be a definition for “excused” or “unexcused” absence, and asked the Board for clarification.
“I would want to have that conversation with you and Don Lange [the High School Athletic Director] and Albert Cousins [high school principal] so that we are all on the same page, rather than speaking for them right now,” Dr. Melnick replied. “The language on excused absences from practices - we need to have Mr. Lange present with us for that conversation.”
The mother said that she was sharing her own daughter’s situation publicly because “she is not alone” and it is about a larger issue that has affected other student athletes.
She asked the Board if student athletes in her daughter’s position could be able to make up missed practices with two-hour long work-out sessions, that she, as a school nurse and licensed hockey coach, volunteered to supervise.
“Practice time is very sports specific and within the venue and responsibilities of working with a team,” Trustee Joanna Commander, who sits on the Athletics Policy Review Committee, replied. “There are individual issues and there are team issues and the effects are very, very different. That’s what we’re trying to work out.”
Trustee Marianne Russo said that “there was a discussion among the Board and I don’t think anyone was happy with the result. . . . It did provoke a conversation and a look at the policy.”
The North Shore Schools Athletics Department handbook that was approved by the School Board in August 2014 addresses attendance in three sections.
A chart indicates that an athlete will be dismissed from a team after three unexcused absences from practices, or two unexcused absences from games
A second section states that a student will “not be penalized in any way” for missing a practice or game due to religious observance; and a third, that a player who is absent due to a family vacation “will have playing time or position adjusted.”
While a definition of "excused" or "unexcused" absence from a team practice is not defined in the handbook, the North Shore School District Attendance Policy includes lists of reasons for both excused and unexcused absences from school. Neither list, however, designates, as "excused" or "unexcused," an absence resulting from participation in athletics, arts, or academic events that are not a part of the school’s program. The language of the policy does not make it clear as to whether the list is all inclusive.
It reads as follows:
“The following is a list of unexcused absences: visiting relatives or friends; Vacationing/traveling; making motor vehicle department appointments excluding road tests with documentation of appointments; babysitting or helping at home; working; shopping; oversleeping; experiencing vehicle breakdown (subject to administrative review); leaving school during the day and/or missing a regularly scheduled class, without proper notification; non-emergency Medical or Dental appointments.”
Trustee Joanna Commander said at the May 5 meeting, that the attendance policy would be on the agenda for the next Athletics Policy Review Committee which was to take place before the posting of this article.
Article by Northwordnews
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