About 30 parents turned out Thursday night at Mattituck-Cutchogue Jr/Sr High School for a forum on whether junior high school students in the district should compete in athletics at the high school level.
The school board chooses in July at its reorganization meeting whether to accept state guidelines for the practice, known as “selection classification,” of allowing certain students whose athletic prowess, physical maturity and academic success indicates they can benefit from playing on a more demanding sports team.
Board members will not make a decision on whether to continue the practice until July, said school board president Jerry Diffley, but the objective of the forum, he said, was “just to listen to our constituents.”
The issue came to before the district after eight junior high students were allowed to participate on high school soccer teams this fall.
Most of the parents who spoke Thursday night were in favor of the practice. The majority were parents of wrestlers, whose matches must be held against students in the same weight class, making it all the more essential that they are grouped with students of the same physical maturity, regardless of their grade level.
“If a coach says that a student does belong, they do belong,” said parent James Hoeg. “That decision should be best left to the people that know the child best…Selection classification has been a positive experience across the board. Not every kid is going to work that hard, but we should reward that. You can’t hold these kids back.”
Board member Charles Anderson was quick to point out that every school in Suffolk County participates in selection classification and that he believed the district would find similar statistics if they surveyed schools state-wide.
“The policy seems to be about whether certain individuals are physically capable, but the more important question is what role sports should play in a kid’s education,” said Cutchogue parent Jim Foley. “It seems like the more students you include, the greater you’re meeting the good of the district…Kids who try hard do get bumped, but there are kids who played sports their whole life and deserve a chance to play.”
Board members seemed very receptive to the parents’ positions.
“Don’t get the opinion the board is against this. We are all very open-minded and willing to listen to the public…I’m impressed and very proud of the people here,” said board member Doug Cooper.