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8th Graders Allowed to Play High School Sports, With a Catch

The Farmington, N.M., school district has voted to allow 8th graders to play any high school sport aside from football, but those same students could be jeopardizing their freshman-year eligibility under the same policy.

The school board voted 4-1 to allow 8th graders to play at the high school level as long as they remain in their own attendance area in the district, according to The Daily Times. If the students who play high school sports decide to attend a high school outside their attendance area in the district, they'll lose their freshman-year eligibility for playing varsity sports at their new school. All freshmen will be eligible for junior varsity sports, if they're offered.

The ineligibility provision applies only 8th grade students who play for their area's high school sports team, then attend a different high school the next year. Students who don't play high school sports in 8th grade and transfer to a different high school remain unaffected by the new rules as well.

The policy also requires 8th graders to finish their middle school season before competing at the high school level. If their middle school doesn't offer the sport they're interested in, those students can play at the high school level for the whole season.

"We're not harming kids by this policy," said Superintendent Janel Ryan after a school board meeting last week, according to the Times. "What we're saying by this is, try your own school."

The board members cited the concern of waivers as a driving factor behind the new policy, noting that roughly half the district's waiver requests are related to athletics.

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