Trip expansion makes sense

On High Schools

Commentary

October 25, 2005|By MILTON KENT

Sometime today, Maryland public school athletes might get the opportunity to pack their bags and hit the road or planes to play their peers from around the country.

That is, if the state Board of Education follows the lead of the Board of Control of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Administration and votes through a proposal to lift the restrictions on how far state public schools can travel to play.

Presently, MPSSAA schools may only make a 600-mile round trip to play teams from other states, which effectively limits their out-of-state competition to neighboring states such as Pennsylvania or Virginia.

The new plan, which would go into effect at the end of next month if approved, would allow teams to go anywhere in the United States, provided that the trip wouldn't cause the students to miss instructional time and met that school system's criteria for a field trip.

Students and alums from Baltimore City, the only area jurisdiction to vote for the measure last April in the Board of Control session, have chafed under the state restriction since city schools left the old Maryland Scholastic Association, where there were no travel restrictions, and joined the MPSSAA in 1993.

Passing the measure wouldn't be a total panacea. Lifting restrictions almost certainly will draw attention to the gap between jurisdictions that have and those that don't, since wealthier schools and parents will be better able to send their kids out barnstorming.

And any change should make school systems vigilant about traveling opportunities for male and female students, meaning if the football team gets to go places, the field hockey team should as well.

But those shouldn't preclude the state board from lifting the shackles and letting the kids see the world, particularly those who might never get to roam beyond their jurisdiction's boundaries. After all, where is it written that the only educational opportunities come in the classroom?

Oddly enough, the state board vote comes on the same day that Ravens linebacker Tommy Polley, a Dunbar graduate, is to donate $10,000 to his alma mater for football equipment and traveling expenses.

Polley, who won state titles in both basketball and football in the mid-1990s, is set to make the presentation at the East Baltimore school at a noon program. The Ravens already have donated football uniforms to city public school teams this year.

Now that the private and public schools have made peace and are able to break bread again, the day is coming when the third side of the triangle, home-schooled kids, will get a seat at the table as well.

As Justin Fenton's article on the front page of The Sun on Sunday indicates, kids who are taught at home and the parents who teach them are making greater efforts to organize and play, first in leagues of their own, among other home-schooled kids.

But, as the number of home-schooled kids grows around the state, it's also clear that they will want a shot at playing kids from public schools at some point, and that's only fair. Their parents, just like the ones who send their kids to public schools, are taxpayers and are invested in the public school system, even if they don't have kids enrolled there.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz this summer settled a lawsuit brought by the coach of a team of home-schooled wrestlers who were effectively precluded from facing public school kids.

The settlement of the lawsuit led to the formation of the Standards of Competition, a set of rules covering a variety of areas including, among other areas, eligibility. Theoretically, any team of home schoolers that meets the criteria set out by the standards can play a public high school.

The problem for some is that the standards seem weighted in favor of traditional school setups, in actual classrooms. However, as the trend toward home schooling grows, public school officials will have to acknowledge the reality that while some kids don't learn in traditional settings, they are entitled to some of the trappings of public schools. That does not, and should not, mean that home-schooled kids should be allowed to play for public school athletic teams.

At some point, though, a kid who learns at home ought to be able to suit up against a kid across the street who catches a bus for the school down the street.

Cliff and Mary Ann Yeager, the grandparents of Beth Green, the Westminster volleyball player who was killed Oct. 5 driving home from a match, have established a memorial scholarship fund in their granddaughter's honor.

The Bethany Green Scholarship will go annually to a Westminster student who is in good academic standing and plays volleyball, basketball or softball, the sports that Beth played.

Contributions can be sent to Sue Gruntzel, Westminster High School, 1225 Washington Road, Westminster, MD 21157-5899. Checks should be made out to Westminster High School with a notation of "Bethany Green Scholarship Fund."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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