BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge School Board voted Thursday to reduce the GPA required to participate in school sports from 2.0 to 1.5.
The unanimous decision reverses a statute in place for the past decade.
"We just want to get more kids involved in after-school activates. We don't know what they go home to," said EBR School System Superintendent Warren Drake, who spearheaded the effort to lower the requirements. "What we're trying to do is put those kids after school with coaches, mentors and teachers that help them get better in the classroom and have an opportunity build that ownership and pride in their school."
The LHSAA requires that all students competing in sports pass five classes and have a C-average. However, the organization does not spell out specifically what a C-average means.
Almost all of the districts and school systems across the state already have a GPA requirement of 1.5 for athletes. This would bring EBR in line with those school systems, including Ascension, Livingston, West Feliciana, Zachary, Central, West Baton Rouge and Baker. In EBR, the C-average is equal to a GPA of 1.5 to 2.4.
Drake and other local leaders called this change for athletes an opportunity to save lives. Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, said he originally opposed the GPA requirement change until speaking with coaches at EBR schools.
"Anything that help kids to stay focused, to defer them from getting into criminal mischief, to be around adults that love and care about them, I'm for it," Washington said.
Not everyone agrees with the decision to lower the GPA standard. Several community members took to the podium to voice their concerns, saying it is in effect dumbing down requirements and taking the focus off of education.
"Running on the field - that's not what I think we need to be focusing on," one attendee said.
"Your number one priority is to make sure that your child has the kind of education that will allow him or her to compete on any level in society," another said.
The superintendent said that teachers by no means are going to make school work any easier.
"We are not lowering standards," Drake said.
Some school board members said that even with the lower GPA requirement, there is nothing restricting parents from setting higher standards for their children.
"Stop putting everything on the teachers, on the coaches, on the superintendent, and our educational staff and start taking responsibility for our own communities," said board member Dr. Kenyetta Nelson-Smith.
Community members, including Washington, also called for the district to provide tutoring to help students with low GPAs to bring their grades up.