Principals fight to let grade 7s play sports

Grade 7 students at Fernie Secondary School may be sitting on the bench at track and field meets this summer, because of a B.C. School Sports rule which stops them participating in bantam (Grade 8) sports.

The school sports organization introduced the rule in May 2010 to member schools, and only allows grade 7 students to take part in bantam (grade 8) team sports if the team is short of players. In this case the principal can apply for an exemption to allow the grade 7 students to take part in the team.

“After the rule was introduced in May, I just applied for the exemption for all the sports,” said Diane Casault, Principal of Fernie Secondary School.

“I had no problems, and the applications were all accepted, until it came to skiing and snowboarding. I was surprised when my application was rejected. They told me skiing and snowboarding are considered individual sports, not team sports.

“So some kids were not able to ski and had to play hockey instead.”

Casault said she thinks they may come into problems again this summer with track and field and cross-country events.

“Track and field is also considered to be an individual sport,” she said.

“So I imagine we’ll have the same issues. We may have to hold a mini meet to accommodate our grade 7 students.”

Casault said she understands the reasoning behind the rule, but thinks there should be different rules for rural areas.

“The reason the rule was made was for schools in the Lower Mainland,” she said.

“But here and in other rural areas it just doesn’t make sense.

”I am a strong believer in Phys. Ed. in schools and school spirit and it is an important part of Fernie Secondary School. We are trying to find a way around this.”

Frank Sopko, Principal of Jaffray Elementary and Secondary School, said he hopes there will be changes. “The rule means my kids aren’t able to take part in B.C. School Sports sanctioned events which is a real shame,” he said.

“I would like to see grade 7 students included in bantam sports in these smaller communities and for the five year eligibility rule to be increased to six years to include grade 7s.”

Currently, there is a rule that students can only participate in secondary school sports for a maximum of five years.

Keith Regular, the Principal at Elkford Secondary School said the school has not had track and field or cross-country for a number of years, so the rule does not affect the students.

“Other than the nuisance of having to apply every year to allow grade 7 students to take part in grade 8 sports teams, it doesn’t really affect us,” he said.

The principal at Sparwood Secondary School, Jason Tichauer, also said their students have not been affected. “We pick the best students for the teams in sports that are considered to be “individual” like golf and track. And they could be grade 7 students but usually they aren’t,” he said. “So it hasn’t affected us too much yet.”

Don Wallace, eligibility officer from B.C. School Sports, said the rule was introduced to make sure no schools were at an unfair advantage in competitions.

“These rules apply across B.C. to make sure it is a level playing field,” he said. “The majority of B.C. schools are grades 8 to 12. We are talking about letting students that aren’t high school students take part in high school athletics.”

Wallace said the members, not the organization, had voted on the rule.

“If any members have a problem with this rule I would encourage them to ask for a resolution at the next AGM,” he said.

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