Beaufort County School District student-athletes will have to make the grade in the classroom if they want to participate in sports, but those who participate in other extracurricular activities will not be required to have a "C" average as originally planned.
Next fall, all student athletes in grades seven through 12 must maintain a 2.0 grade point average, according to a policy approved by the board of education at its work session Friday.
The 8-0 vote -- board members Wayne Carbiener, Steven Morello and Michael Rivers were absent -- formalized a decision made at the board's July work session.
Originally, all participants in extracurricular activities -- such as drama, band or debate club -- were to be included in the policy, approved on a 6-4 vote in July after more than an hour and a half of heated discussion.
But a committee of principals, athletic directors, parents and students had trouble deciding how to implement the rule, according to district instructional services chief Sean Alford. There was no easy way to define "extracurricular," he said.
Take marching band. At some high schools, it's part of a course and students earn a grade for it. At others, it's strictly extracurricular. A 2.0 GPA requirement for extracurricular activities wouldn't be implemented evenly at every school, Alford said.
At Friday's meeting, some board members questioned if the GPA requirement was even needed for all extracurricular activities.
"If somebody in debate club is failing -- I find that hard to believe because it's more of an academic exercise," school board vice chairman George Wilson said. "Which clubs do we have a serious problem in? It makes sense to know your problem before finding a solution for it."
The board instead approved a policy Friday that requires good behavior and attendance at school to participate in extracurricular activities.
Alford said the committee would examine student grades to determine if a 2.0 GPA requirement was even needed and bring a revised policy back to the board if necessary.
The 2.0 GPA requirement for sports is one of the strictest in the state. Alford said to his knowledge only one other school district -- Richland County School District One -- has such a policy.
The S.C. High School League has academic standards for its member schools, which include Beaufort County. To participate in sports, students must pass four or five classes, depending on the semester.
A D grade is considered passing. There is no GPA requirement, nor is there a requirement that core courses be passed.
Data presented at the school board's July session showed the 2.0 requirement could potentially affect many athletes.
There were 1,832 student athletes at Battery Creek, Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head high schools last year.
Only 15 were ineligible under S.C. High School League rules.
But 233 athletes -- 13 percent -- had GPAs below 2.0.
The policy is based on the previous semester's grades, not cumulative GPA.
To play a sport in the fall, students must have a 2.0 the last semester in the prior year. To play in the spring, their January report cards must meet the 2.0 cutoff.
Students won't be disqualified until the spring 2013 semester, so they have a full semester to learn the rules.
Alford said the district already has policies in place that bar a student from playing in a game when they have a 77-percent average or below in any class and don't attend after school study halls. Coaches monitor students' grades weekly.
School board members agreed that the 2.0 requirement was needed, but many said they hoped it would not take away a key reason some students even show up to school.
"It's not that all our children are going to be the Michael Jordans of the world," board secretary Laura Bush said. "They should use school to further education. It behooves us to push this."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.
- Survey on policy tightening academic standards for school athletes has mixed results; Dec. 19, 2009
- School district to get tougher on monitoring student athletes' academics; Jan. 18, 2010
- School district approves 2.0 GPA requirement for extracurriculars; July 22, 2011
- School district reaches settlement with insurers in molestation case; Sept. 22, 2011