Local News

Bill would send sports at low-performing schools into sudden death

Posted March 4, 2009 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— A state lawmaker wants to dim the Friday night lights at North Carolina high schools with poor academic performance.

Senate Bill 377 would bar interscholastic athletics at schools where more than half of the students score below the 50th percentile on end-of-grade or end-of-course tests for at least two straight years.

Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, the sponsor of the bill, said the proposal isn't intended to punish students who are doing well. He said he only wants to encourage students who aren't performing well in the classroom to do better.

"We certainly want our kids to keep playing sports because we know how important that is, but we need to remember the first thing about a school is to be able to learn to read and write and do math," Albertson said.

Based on test scores from the past two years, 10 area schools would be affected by such a restriction if it were approved and went into effect immediately, including Hillside, Northern and Southern high schools in Durham and Douglas Byrd and Westover high schools in Cumberland County.

"I think that would be a huge mistake," said Hillside football player Jharrison Gillespie, who carries a 4.3 grade-point average. "If anything, that would make things worse."

Hillside basketball player Jerelle Gorham, who has a 4.5 GPA, said the logic behind Alberston's bill doesn't add up.

"I think that's a little crazy because, in order to play athletics, you have to have the good grades," Gorham said. "I know on our basketball team, we have people that have 4.5 and 4.2 (GPAs)."

Bill Harrison, the new chief executive of North Carolina's public schools, also expressed concern about the proposal.

"I believe athletics are a primary motivator for a lot of our students," Harrison said. "My sense is there will be a lot of resistance from the public."

The other area schools that would be affected by Albertsons bill, based on recent test scores, are Kenan High School in Duplin County, Northwest Halifax, Southeast Halifax and Weldon high schools in Halifax County and Warren County High School.