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Should Falls Athletes Be Held to a Higher Academic Standard?

Lori Blodorn, who heads the district's Policy Committee, posed the question to fellow board members Monday to solicit feedback on potentially revising the district's policy for student athletes at the high school. What do you think?

As part of the Menomonee Falls School Board’s dedication to promoting excellence in the classroom, the board may consider adopting a higher academic standard for its athletes than other schools in the Greater Metro Conference.

An official policy proposal hasn’t even been drafted at this point, but Lori Blodorn, who heads the district’s policy committee, turned to her fellow members Monday for insight on possibly upping the academic standards for athletes at .

Blodorn posed the idea purely for debate, and board members had varying positions on changing the academic requirements for student athletes. She said the Handbook Committee met prior and suggested keeping the policy the same. The Policy Committee is still in discussion, and hasn't brought a recommendation to the board.

Currently, athletes in the Greater Metro Conference are subject the WIAA minimum requirement for academic performance. Student athletes retain eligibility if they haven’t received more than one failing grade in the most recent marking period. If they are declared ineligible - carrying two failing grades -  they have three weeks to bring their averages back up while they are suspended from competition.

School districts can mandate a more stringent policy that would trump the WIAA regulation.

Board members suggested a few ways to up the standard for Menomonee Falls athletes. Suggestions ranged from deeming an athlete ineligible with just a single failing grade, or mandating a minimum GPA requirement for all athletes.

“Our job as a board is to create policy, and I think we should push students to excel,” said board member Paul Tadda. “If we do pick a GPA minimum we’re at least pushing the students to achieve what they can. I think that will mean more to them later in life than a pennant on the gym wall.”

It was noted by board members that the academic performance of athletes hasn’t been a serious issue regardless of the sport.

Faith Vanderhorst added that just because a student is carrying a single failing grade, they could also have several “Ds” or “Cs” mixed in on their report cards. She thought a minimum GPA requirement would take lower marks into account and build a more accurate picture of overall academic performance.

“If they have no failing grades but they have four ‘Ds’ they shouldn’t be out practicing, but studying,” Vanderhorst said.

Currently, some individual coaches enforce their own academic standards for their athletes by mandating a minimum GPA, but board member David Noshay said those standards are far from uniform and depend on the sport and the coach. A suggestion was floated to create a policy requiring coaches set a minmum GPA level in every sport.

“They’re all different. Every program should be the same. I have an issue leaving it up to the coaches to decide,” Noshay said.

However, both Board President Ron Bertieri and board member Scott Ternes voiced hesitancy to change the rules from the standard used by other schools in the conference.

“I think putting a policy above the rest of the region can be troublesome,” Ternes said.

Bertieri suggested any discussions for policy changes regarding student athletes should begin at the conference level with all schools involved.

The Policy Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the feedback from the board and decide on a direction for a draft. Any policy change would go to the board for a first read and discussion prior to any approvals.

The board will need to approve any proposed revisions to the policy by the end of May or early June to assure it is printed in the student handbooks that are distributed in fall.

Although a policy draft hasn’t been presented to the board, we’d like to turn this debate over to Patch readers. Do you think the district should revise its academic performance guidelines for athletes? Should they stay the same, or do feel that MFHS should raise its standards? Be sure to tell us in the comments below and vote in our poll.

jerry mislang May 16, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I've always been in favor of policies that try to include more kids, not exclude them. The WIAA has that rule for a reason and I assume is it is followed by the vast majority of the state. If there is change, I agree with Ron, it should be at the conference level so there's a level playing field. But if they're going to do that, they should address the entire Athletes Code of Conduct, not just one item. I believe every school has their own Code, and the last time I looked, MFHS was the most stringent.
Ruthanne Rosser May 16, 2012 at 01:44 PM
We are a SCHOOL district, not an athletic district. Education is the priority here and I think any student failing a class needs to be suspended from their sport until his grades are up to standard. What message are we sending about education...it's okay to scrape by with D's?? Our society already puts too much value into athletics and not enough into education. I was a student athlete and because I loved my sports, I put the effort into my academics so I could continue competing. I feel sports can have a positive impact on a student but there needs to be a balance and receiving a good education should always be the priority.
Craig May 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I agree. Many years ago when I went to the same High School, we had a minimum GPA requirement. I fear the rules were changed to allow certain athletes to stay active in their sport so the Falls could be competitive. We have not remained competitive academically, yet we outspend our closest competition.
Steve ® May 16, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Why is this being brought up? Do we have an issue with student athletes and severe low grades? Can you even pass a class and move on if you receive a D? Does suspending them from play really help the problem? These are competitive varsity sports, if you lose your spot you will be replaced. So you then basically kick the student out of sports which are structured and usually help with overall performance in school. Which all leads back to my first question, do we even have a problem in the first place?
Jann May 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
This is a tough one and I don't think it's a one size fits all thing. For instance if my child was doing poorly in algebra but getting good or great grades in his shop classes and wanted to be a mechanic I would not want him held out of sports. That particular student will never need algebra in his career. And holding him out may just make him resentful. I think parental involvement is necessary in all instances. If my child was doing poorly in a couple of classes that he needed to have to get into college, then I as a parent would decide to hold him out of sports for the time being.
Carl Engelking May 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I just wanted to note that I stated in the story that the Policy Committee met and suggested keeping the policy the same - that was incorrect. The Handbook Committee met and suggested keeping the policy the same. The Policy Committee is still in discussion and haven't formulated a recommendation to the board.
jerry mislang May 18, 2012 at 01:42 PM
If we're going to hold athletes to a high standard, shouldn't that apply to other non-currliclar groups also? What about FBLA, Key Club, Link Crew, Orchestra, SMORES, Choir, Yearbook or any of the other 25 groups and clubs? Do those groups also have a Code of Ethics similiar to the Athletic Code? I'll admit I have questions but not too many answers.,

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