Following a robust discussion during a June 15 meeting of the East Hampton School Board, the decision was made not to change a policy barring seventh-grade athletes from moving up to varsity-level teams in most sports.
School officials emphasized that they cared most about a student's social, emotional, and academic well-being in making the decision. "I go to the principal and guidance counselor and say, 'How is this student academically or emotionally?' There are times when they say that student is not ready," Joe Vasile-Cozzo, the district's athletic director, said.
The policy largely pertains to contact sports such as football, lacrosse, and field hockey, but in cases where there is no middle school team for a particular sport -- such as golf -- a rare exception can be made if a student passes a rigorous physical test.
Some board members questioned whether the policy would inhibit a student's development as an athlete. "Are there opportunities for seventh graders to join a club sport or some type of travel team? The school program isn't limiting the growth of the student if those opportunities exist," Richard Burns, who is retiring as superintendent as of Wednesday, replied.
An unofficial board vote of 5-to-2 kept the policy in place.