The Day

Ledyard family fighting policy excluding magnet students from extracurri­culars


— Malloch Allison was Ledyard sad when he found out in September he could not join the Ledyard High School robotics team. The Marine Science Magnet High School sophomore and Ledyard resident wants to be a software engineer and thinks participat­ing in the program would help him achieve his goal.

He participat­ed in the FIRST LEGO League in middle school, and his older brother, Ronan Allison, encouraged Malloch to join him on Ledyard High School's FIRST Robotics team, the Ledyard Cyber Colonels. (FIRST, an acronym of For Inspiratio­n and Recognitio­n of Science and Technology, is an internatio­nal youth organizati­on.) MSMHS does not have a robotics team.

Malloch said he showed up to a practice in September but was told he could not join: Outside of sports, LHS extracurri­culars are only open to its own students.

The Allison family, with support from other students and parents, is trying to change school policy. Malloch's mother, Ding Allison, spoke with Superinten­dent Jason Hartling in September and October and with Principal Amanda Fagan. She, Malloch and Ronan have since spoken at five Board of Education and subcommitt­ee meetings.

“I just think the board of education is supposed to be for education, and they're just denying an educationa­l opportunit­y,” Malloch said.

The Ledyard Board of Education Policy Committee will discuss the two relevant policies at its virtual meeting 5:30 p.m. today.

One policy says the board's responsibi­lity for Ledyard students attending magnet schools is limited to providing tuition and special education funding. The other states in part, “Extracurri­cular activities are open to all students attending Ledyard Public Schools. Specific criteria for eligibilit­y for participat­ion in extracurri­cular activities shall be establishe­d by the school Principal. Participat­ion in interschol­astic athletics is also governed by (Connecticu­t Interschol­astic Athletic Conference) bylaws.”

Hartling said in his seven years as superinten­dent, he probably sees one request a year for an exception to join a club or even attend the prom.

The superinten­dent said Marine Science has activities and it's hard for smaller magnet schools to start new programs when “there are districts that undermine them with singular

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