Principal Stanley Teitel informed students during the grade assemblies, held from Tuesday, September 9 to Friday, September 11, that he and his cabinet were discussing a new policy that would bar students who are not doing sufficiently in school from participating in extracurricular activities.
Though there are currently no specifics as to how many classes a student must fail to be ineligible for extracurricular activities, Teitel said the policy would be similar to the one used for SING!, which bans students who receive three grades of Needs Improvement or one grade of Unsatisfactory.
The plan, which was first proposed last spring, is still in the early stages of planning. According to Teitel, the date the policy will be implemented has not been determined.
“If you can’t at least pass all your classes, you shouldn’t be spending time involved in extracurriculars, which take away from your studies,” Teitel said.
According to Teitel, the administration would enforce the policy by asking each extracurricular organization to report the ID number of all members. Once report cards were handed out, a computer system would identify which students were not passing. The clubs, teams, or publications would have to suspend the activities of those members until their grades improve. Teitel said the responsibility of enforcing the policy would fall to the club’s faculty advisor.
According to senior and Model United Nations President Evan Smith, the policy has already been partially instituted in the more academically-oriented clubs. “Most of the faculty advisors are not going to let you participate if you’re failing class,” Smith said. “And for any club with a trip component, most teachers are not going to sign off to let you go on a trip if you’re failing a class.”
The Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) has already instituted a policy similar to the one being proposed. According to PSAL regulations, a student must pass four credit-bearing subjects as well as physical education in order to be eligible to participate in a sports team. At least two of the subjects must be ‘major’ ones, such as English, math, history, foreign language and science.
According to physical education teacher and girls’ varsity volleyball and boys’ varsity basketball coach Phil Fisher, even if the policy may disrupt a student’s athletic training, school comes first. “Unless you’re going to make a career out of that sport and don’t need the diploma, you’re here to get an education,” Fisher said. “You should earn the right to be in the special activities. It should not be guaranteed, as far as I’m concerned.”
Assistant Principal English Eric Grossman stated that although the main purpose of the plan is to give students an incentive to do well in school, it is also an equalizing factor among students. Under the plan, all students would be held accountable for maintaining their grades, rather than only those on sports teams.
“It’s unfair to be ineligible for some extracurricular activities and totally eligible for others,” Grossman said. “It’s really an attempt to make things consistent from activity to activity and not punish students who participate in one kind of thing and not have any kind of standard for students who participate in something else.”
Students expressed mixed feeling about the policy.
“I wouldn’t say I am a firm supporter of it, but I wouldn’t go so far to protest it,” senior and Key Club Vice President Johnny Szeto said. “The work that teachers give us is doable, and if you don’t understand it, it’s your responsibility to go after school and ask for help.”
“If you are taking [extracurricular activities] away, it gives the person no emotional support because they have friends and stuff in their extracurricular activities,” sophomore Victoria Gong said.
According to Gong, many students rely on their friends and treat the afterschool activities as sources of confidence that they can and will improve in school.
Smith disagreed. “If a kid is not fulfilling their academic obligations within the classroom, then the administration should not be expected to allocate thousands of dollars every year for extracurriculars when kids aren’t taking advantage of the resources that are in class,” he said.
Smith also said that the policy could be beneficial towards certain extracurricular organizations. “We can’t really afford to help kids finance trips if there’s a risk a teacher is not going to let them go on the trip because they’re failing,” he said. “That just ends up being a loss for us, both in terms of our competitiveness, because we’re missing a person, and monetarily, because we could lose 300 dollars if a person has to drop from a conference.”
“Most of our students do pass all their classes. But for those that don’t, I want to make it clear that I have an expectation as principal that you will pass all your classes, and if you don’t, then you cannot participate in all our wonderful extracurriculars that we offer until you do,” Teitel said.