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Sports, grades: a debate

A plan in Butte Falls to require athletes to keep a C average proves divisive, so the sides battle it out with words

BUTTE FALLS ' A proposal to raise the academic bar has proved a higher leap than many student athletes are willing to make.

The policy change that would require athletes to maintain at least a C average to stay in sports has polarized students, parents and faculty.

Not shy about controversy, the new superintendent, Steve Pine, decided to hold a debate Wednesday in front of 100 community members to help resolve the dispute.

With 23 percent of the students failing one or more classes, Pine warned parents that if the school doesn't improve academically, then eventually, this will result in the state taking over our school.

Pine offered to allow two panels made up of teachers and students to debate the pros and cons of tying athletics to grades.

This isn't the first time Pine's policies have created controversy among students, who say he is strict. Earlier, he replaced the soda machine with a juice machine, and he no longer allows eating except during lunch periods.

Mr. Pine has come in and changed almost everything. He's coming in and stepping on people's toes, said senior Trevor Hersom, one of about a dozen student protesters outside the debate.

While the joke among students is that Butte Falls High has turned into a military school, Trevor admitted, Last year was way too loose.

So loose, said teacher Dianne Gorman, that of the 81 high school students, 19 are failing one or more classes, and the school is not doing well on state test scores.

Of the failing students, nine are athletes, including some star athletes.

What Pine and some teachers are proposing is to change the policy so that students have to get at least a C to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities.

Previously, students could participate in sports if they had one or more D's.

Teacher Marcia Warren said, A D is substandard, yet we're accepting it when we're allowing it to be the standard of eligibility.

We need to raise that standard so we're matching what's going on in our classrooms as to what's going on in our teams.

Another teacher, Mardell Smith, said, It's not too much to ask to get a C average.

Amanda Newby, student body vice president, countered, What about students who are not mentally able to be as good at academics as they are at athletics?

In a compromise gesture, Amanda urged the school to slowly work up to the new standards to give students time to get used to them.

Senior Michael Hanson said, You're taking away all the incentives for the students to try and bring their grades back up.

Michael didn't see how penalizing a student by taking away extracurricular activities would encourage him to do better in class.

Health teacher Michael Harrington agreed that the academic bar needs to be raised, but said, We're ready to raise the bar slightly and if we need to, raise the bar higher later.

Pine will meet with student body president Josh Wetzel today to discuss the debate, expecting to reach a compromise over the policy.

Pine and other teachers said most students could complete their homework during class time, if they used their time wisely.

You just have to stay awake, listen to your teacher, engage in discussions, use your time wisely and you will not fall below a C, said Pine.

From left, Butte Falls High School students Amanda Newby, Chris Copeland and Michael Hanson and teacher Michael Harrington formed the team that was concerned about raising standards for student athletes during a debate Wednesday in Butte Falls. Click the photo to see a larger (42k) version. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven