Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


July 5, 2012

Ban delayed on AHS freshmen playing varsity

The School Committee has tabled for now a proposal to ban freshmen from playing varsity sports when an alternative is available to receive more input from students, parents and coaches.

Freshmen will remain eligible to play varsity sports in the coming school year.

The proposal calls for freshmen to be banned from playing on a varsity team except in cases where a sport has only a varsity team. Sports at Andover High with only varsity teams include golf, skiing and gymnastics.

The freshman ban and other athletic policy changes are part of an effort to change the school's sports culture in the wake of last summer's hazing scandal, when two new members of the varsity basketball team were forced to play a humiliating sex game at a summer training camp at Stonehill College in Easton.

"[This proposed] policy does not solve the problem," said parent Carl Grygiel at the School Committee meeting last week. "In fact, it will create more opportunity for exceptions and could eventually push students out of our academic communities to other schools because their opportunities are being unfairly limited."

His comment was met by cheers from a small crowd of parents and coaches attending the 8:30 a.m. meeting.

The committee voted 5-0 to approve all other proposed changes to the athletic policy, including stricter hazing consequences, requirements for teams to perform a community service project and raising the minimum academic standards to a 2.0 grade point average for students to participate in sports.

The grade requirement will not take effect until after the first quarter of the school year in November, said interim Principal Thomas Sharkey.

School Superintendent Marinel McGrath recommended the committee withdraw the proposal regarding freshmen so it can be reviewed by the school council, which is made up of teachers, parents and students. If the council decides to move forward with the change, it would then be brought back before the School Committee.

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