SCHENECTADY — A Schenectady school board member last week suggested the district should strengthen its athletic code of conduct to prohibit students who skip classes from participating in afterschool activities that day.
But Superintendent Larry Spring and other board members cautioned it was important to maintain discretion for teachers and coaches — even as they said they were open to exploring how frequently students who skipped class are allowed to participate in sports.
Board member Mark Snyder, speaking during last week’s school board meeting, said he was concerned the district’s athletic code of conduct was too lax in allowing students who skip class to also play in games that day.
Despite a discrepancy in language with the districtwide code of conduct, students who are suspended or absent from school cannot participate in afterschool activities. But the code still appears to allow students who show up for school by 10 a.m. but skip particular classes during the day to participate in games and practices that day — at the coach’s discretion.
“If a student is in class by 10 a.m. but they have a math class at noon and they miss it, they can still play?” Snyder asked at the board meeting.
“I think the answer would be yes,” Spring said. “That would be up to the coach.”
Snyder said if students are going to take advantage of the district’s wide range of afterschool programs and athletics, they should be held accountable for attending their classes.
“They need to meet us halfway; they need to go to class,” Synder said.
Snyder also made his argument in the broader context of concerns teachers raised last school year about truant students loitering in hallways, disrupting other classes and not abiding teacher requests.
After the board meeting, Spring said he viewed the issue as landing on a policy of “zero tolerance or not." Spring also said it would take more analysis to understand just how frequently students were skipping class the same day they participated in games or other activities.
Other board members appeared skeptical that a move toward a zero-tolerance policy was appropriate, suggesting it was important to not turn students away from afterschool activities — which can help improve overall academic and behavioral performance. They also felt coaches needed discretion in such cases.
“We need to structure it so there is room for coaches and teachers to have a relationship (with students), and it’s not just about rules,” board President John Foley said at the meeting. “So it’s more about relationships than rules.”