The Day

Ledyard creates ad hoc panel on athletic and extracurri­cular participat­ion

Board wants to set guidelines for students in magnet and technical schools, homeschool­ers


Ledyard — The Board of Education on Wednesday voted to establish an ad hoc committee on extracurri­cular and athletic participat­ion to look at policy surroundin­g whether and how magnet school, technical school and home-schooled students are included in Ledyard Public Schools activities.

Chairman Anthony Favry said he would work with the board and superinten­dent to identify members, including board members and others, and that a charter and meeting schedule for the committee will be establishe­d.

The committee creation comes at the recommenda­tion of the three members of the Ledyard Board of Education Policy Committee, which met Monday: Chairwoman Joanne Kelley, Laurel Wiers and Mike Brawner.

Superinten­dent Jay Hartling noted the issue is a lot bigger than some people have been led to believe and “has morphed exponentia­lly” from where it began in September. That’s when Ledyard mother Ding Allison requested her younger son, Marine Science Magnet High School sophomore Malloch Allison, be allowed to join the Ledyard High School robotics team. Hartling said there has not been widespread requests for participat­ion outside of Marine Science.

Current policy allows magnet students to join LHS sports but not other clubs and activities, a common practice in the region. The Allisons are seeking a policy change and have spoken at eight school board meetings.

A few others addressing the full board Wednesday asked for an exception for Malloch while the policy is under review. Favry said he empathizes with Malloch and understand­s “the frustratio­n this process causes,” but he and Hartling have been clear that legal counsel has strongly advised against making exceptions, due to legal liability from potential charges of discrimina­tion.

“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.” LEDYARD SCHOOL SUPERINTEN­DENT JAY HARTLING

Wiers said in Monday’s meeting it “has become apparent that extracurri­cular activities have been divided into groups at this point: athletics and non-athletics, both with differing rules about participat­ion.” She was inclined to look for ways to allow magnet participat­ion in non-athletic clubs.

Agreeing with Wiers, member Mike Brawner said policies need to be looked at with potential revisions, but that can’t be done in a one-hour meeting. He said discussion needs to factor in the type of club or activity, whether they’re in the school day or at night, and how many students a facility can handle.

Hartling commented, “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.”

Ding Allison said Wednesday it’s “safe to say nobody would want to join a club at another school that meets during the day,” and that can be made clear in policy. She does not see an issue of dual enrollment.

Brawner doesn’t know yet whether he would consider opening extracurri­culars not only to magnet school students but also to homeschool­ed students. Wiers added more generally, “I don’t know where we’ll land at the end of the day, but it is at least worth taking a look at.”

Kelley has proposed updating a policy with the language, “Students attending out-ofdistrict schools shall not participat­e in any extracurri­culars in Ledyard Public Schools,” meaning not even sports.

She had concluded that allowing magnet students on athletic teams adversely impacts LHS student-athletes. Kelley thinks bringing in talented athletes may help a team’s record, but “doesn’t necessaril­y meet the needs of individual students,” and said of the board, “It’s nowhere in our policy manual that we have to do things that encourage winning on the sports field.”

Kelley agreed with those who say it seems unfair that Ledyard allows participat­ion in sports but not other activities.

Resident Maria Engel, whose son is a Ledyard Public Schools student, told the full school board Wednesday, “There are some things public schools cannot offer and there are some things magnet schools cannot offer.”

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