Howard County's plan to keep academically troubled students out of extracurricular activities -- including athletics -- got serious this week with the opening of the winter high school sports season.
Throughout the county's high schools, controversy still rages over the new policy. But the fears of large numbers of athletes failing to make the grade appear not to have been borne out so far. And the new policy appears to have succeeded -- in at least a few cases -- in pushing students to improve their classwork.
The school system has not yet compiled a total of ineligible athletes, said Donald Disney, coordinator of athletics. But initial reports from Howard coaches and athletes suggest that at most high schools only a handful of students who had intended to play sports this winter failed to do well enough in school to be eligible for athletics.
One of the hardest-hit sports teams appears to be the wrestling squad at Columbia's Oakland Mills High School, according to team members. "We lost at least three guys to the new rules," complained senior Bryan Frizzelle, 17, who is eligible.
But most Howard coaches and athletes appear to have been prepared for the new policy, which forbids athletes from failing a class.
"The coaches and the school made it very clear what was coming," said basketball player Stefanie Bassett, 16, a junior at Wilde Lake High School. "They told us that we had to make the grade to be able to play, and if you weren't listening it was your own fault."
The eligibility policy, which was approved in August and took effect Friday with the opening of practices for winter sports, is the toughest in the Baltimore area.
It requires students who want to participate in extracurricular activities or play high school sports to have a 2.0 grade-point average and no failing grades. While the policy affects all extracurricular activities -- or about 70 percent of Howard's 10,700 high school students -- it was aimed primarily at athletes.
Howard's previous eligibility policy required a 2.0 average, but it allowed students to have one failing grade. It also had a provision allowing failing students to improve their grades early in the season and regain their eligibility -- an option eliminated by the school board.
Other area school systems allow one or two failing grades, and most do not have any grade-point requirement.
Howard coaches, principals and teachers say that heavy emphasis was placed on making sure students were aware of the new policy. They say that tutoring, mandatory study halls and frequent grade reports -- which have been in place at most schools since the school board last toughened eligibility standards in 1989 -- helped students keep up their grades.
Pub Date: 11/19/96