To play or not to play: school board discusses sixth grade athletics

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016

COLUMBUS – The Polk County School Board has begun a discussion centered around whether to allow sixth graders to participate in athletics, a change in current policy that precludes sixth graders from participating. 

At their monthly board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Aaron Greene presented information on the pros and cons of allowing sixth graders to play sports.

This discussion comes after the state legislature decided in August to allow sixth graders to play all sports, except for football, in the middle schools as part of a change to the North Carolina State Board of Education’s Interscholastic Athletics Policy.

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The policy was being revised to reflect “the inclusion of charter school students in interscholastic participation as they are public school students,” according to the N.C. Department of Instruction. Additionally, the choice was left to the local school boards to make the decision as to whether to allow their sixth graders to participate in athletics.

Greene presented four sources to the board Monday evening and discussed with the board how to move forward on making this decision.

These sources included a medical study from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), a study conducted by the North Carolina Healthy Schools association on the HRS-D-001 Policy Regarding Interscholastic Athletics, the North Carolina Healthful Living Essential Standards Athletics website and the North Carolina State Board of Education policy on interscholastic athletics.

For the board to consider when making their decision, Greene detailed variables involved with having sixth graders participate in athletics ranging from equipment needs to the physical, mental and emotional attributes of a sixth grader.

He added that other counties in western North Carolina have already decided to approve athletics for sixth graders, while the Madison County school system has determined they would wait until next school year to decide. Board member Rick Covil asked Greene about the potential for concussions, noting he has seen concussions occur more in soccer than in football.

Though he could not make a recommendation to the board as to whether to adopt a motion for or against the issue, Greene did advise the board to consider all of the information he provided during the meeting.

The discussion was tabled until the school board’s meeting in October. Greene said a decision would need to be made in the November time frame if the middle school wants to begin making preparations for their winter sports.