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Baltimore Schools Weighing New Academic Standards for Student-Athletes

The Baltimore City board of school commissioners is weighing whether to require a minimum grade point average of 1.75 for students to participate on interscholastic sports teams, according to multiple reports.

At the moment, the district allows students to participate in interscholastic sports so long as they have no more than one failing grade in the previous grading period, according to the district's handbook. Establishment of a minimum GPA would be a first for the district, per Erica L. Green of the Baltimore Sun.

If the new standards are approved—something that is no certainty at the moment—the current policy would remain in place for the 2016-17 school year. The minimum 1.75 GPA, which equates to a C-minus, would be in place for the 2017-18 school year, and it would rise to a minimum 2.0 GPA, which equates to a C, in 2018-19.

"If it was up to me, it would be 2.0 immediately," city councilman Brandon Scott told Green. "Allowing them to play with a 1-point-anything allows coaches and schools to use kids and set them up for failure."

Advocates for the change point to the National Collegiate Athletic Association as part of the impetus. For high school athletes who hope to continue their athletic careers at Division I colleges and universities, they must earn a minimum 2.3 GPA in core courses to be eligible to compete as freshmen.

Tim Brown, a quarterback on the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute football team, threw his support behind the minimum 2.0 GPA when speaking with Fox45 Baltimore's John Rydell.

"If they want to get into college," Brown told Rydell. "I mean, a 1.75 ain't going to get you nowhere."

In 2011, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law that required the state board of education to make specific recommendations about minimum academic requirements for high school student-athletes. The board responded by recommending each district adopt a minimum 2.0 GPA for high school students to be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics, but it stopped short of making that mandatory statewide. According to Green, Baltimore would be the last district in the region to change its eligibility policy since the state board's recommendation came through nearly five years ago.

Some board members expressed concern about whether the district has the appropriate support structures in place to accompany such a change, according to Green. New district CEO Sonja Santelises acknowledged that fear as legitimate, noting that her staff is still gathering feedback about the proposal before putting it up to a vote.

"If I could, I would institute the standard tomorrow, but we want to be responsive to students and families," Santelises said, according to Green. "The goal is not to have a policy that hurts kids. The goal is to have a policy that has high expectations, but also give schools and families the supports to meet them."


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