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.”