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Looking Back on the Top K-12 Sports Stories of 2013

While the year 2013 didn't have anything as momentous as the 40th anniversary of Title IX when it came to K-12 sports, there wasn't exactly a shortage of news, either.

The year began with the hacktivist group "Knight Sec" posting a set of documents online called "The Steubenville Files," which documented an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio. In March, two players were found guilty of rape, and this fall, five school officials were indicted by a grand jury in connection with the incident.  

We've also seen a number of schools, districts, and states grappling with contentious mascot issues in 2013. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights back in February, asking for a ban on the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools that receive federal funds. (The federal OCR dismissed said request in June.) A California high school came under fire in November for its "Arab" mascot, while earlier this month, the Houston Independent School District board of education tentatively banned "culturally insensitive" mascots.  

Additionally, six states passed youth-concussion laws in 2013, bringing the total number of states with such laws up to 49 (plus the District of Columbia). Heading into 2014, Mississippi is the only state without any form of youth-concussion legislation on the books. (You can browse each state's law in our interactive map.)

Before the calendar flips to 2014, here's a look back at the 10 most-read Schooled in Sports posts this year (including a few blasts from years past!).

10. Academic Predictions for the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Before this year's March Madness tipped off, the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport published its annual report examining graduation-rate trends for the 68 teams participating in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Had academics determined who advanced in each matchup, the University of Kansas would have prevailed as champions. (The University of Louisville, who won the actual NCAA tournament, would have been knocked out in the Round of 32 by the University of Missouri.)

9. Schools Don't Sacrifice Academics for Athletics, Analysis Suggests

High schools that succeed athletically aren't necessarily punting on their academic success, suggested an analysis published in the Journal of Research in Education back in February. As it turned out, schools which emphasize athletic success and participation also tended to have higher scores on standardized tests and higher graduation rates, the authors found.

8. Father Sues School for $40 Million After Son Kicked Off Track Team

Back in May, a New Jersey father filed a $40 million federal lawsuit after his son was booted off his school's track team, claiming that "participation in extracurricular activities is a right." The district's policy regarding extracurricular activities didn't ever specify whether participation was a "right" or a "privilege," but another district in upstate N.J. clearly did state that "participation in competitive athletics and co-curricular activities is a privilege, not a right."

7. Educators Want Mandatory Health, Physical Education in Schools, Survey Finds

A survey released by KidsHealth in the Classroom back in April found a majority of parents and educators to be dissatisifed with health and physical education offerings in schools. Almost all educators (99 percent) surveyed said that phys. ed. should be a required class for all students, while 99 percent also agreed that health class should be required in middle and high schools. However, educators and parents reported that these classes, if their schools had them, were inadequate at the time being.

6. Physical Education Requirements Questioned for Student-Athletes

Back in July, some parents in New Mexico began questioning the state's physical-education mandate, even for student-athletes already involved in extracurricular sports. The state requires its high school students to take one year of phys. ed. to graduate, and unlike many other states, doesn't allow for waivers or exemptions for extracurricular activities like school sports.

5. 'Strong Evidence' of Link Between Physical Activity, Academic Success

A systematic review of 14 studies from the past few decades found that children who participated in physical activity also tended to benefit in the classroom. "According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," the authors wrote.

4. Survey: High School Sports Participation at All-Time High

This post, from August 2011, revealed that the number of high school students playing sports reached a then-all-time high during the 2010-11 school year, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. This year, another all-time high was set, with 7.7 million high school student-athletes participating in sports during the 2012-13 school year.

3. Hazing Rituals in High School Sports Becoming More Sexually Violent

Back in July, Bloomberg published an investigation into hazing rituals among high school boys. According to the report, 40 high school boys had been sodomized with foreign objects, including a broken flag pole, metal concrete-reinforcing bar, and a water bottle, in just the past year. In November, we reported on an incident in Rock Rapids, Iowa, in which three middle school football players faced misdemeanor charges, including assault with intent to commit sexual assault, for their roles in bullying a teammate.

2. Michelle Obama, Jimmy Fallon Celebrate 3rd Anniversary of Let's Move!

Back in February, first lady Michelle Obama went on a two-day nationwide tour to celebrate the third anniversary of her Let's Move! initiative, which launched on Feb. 9, 2010, to improve the health of the nation's children. As part of the tour, she took on late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon in a physical activity challenge at the White House, which ended with an epic potato sack race.

1. Should Schools Make Physical Education Mandatory?

This post, from January 2011, examined states' physical education requirements in lieu of Virginia considering a statewide P.E. requirement. According to the 2012 Shape of the Nation report from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 38 states now mandate that schools must provide their students with phys. ed. in elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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