Modesto schools citizenship policy revision sends athletes right message


May 1, 2013 

In February, the Modesto City Schools board voted to drop its rule that two or more unsatisfactory marks in citizenship for the preceding quarter would make students ineligible to participate in sports.

At the time, we asked whether this amounted to lowering the bar and removing the consequences of bad behavior in the classroom. Students receive unsatisfactory citizenship marks for things such as poor attendance, not completing assignments, frequent tardies and a lack of effort. That list echoes the complaints of employers about many of their young workers.

The school board had enough reservations that it approved the policy change only for 2013-14 and wanted to review the impact before extending it.

High school principals, coaches and others heard the concern and, to their credit, have come up with a partial solution through a change in the Athletic Code of Conduct for grades seven to 12. The revision states that students "who receive two or more unsatisfactory citizenship marks in any grading period will be placed on athletic probation."

A student on athletic probation will have to get teachers to sign off on weekly reports indicating that the student's behavior is satisfactory. The real consequence: "Athletes who do not improve their classroom citizenship will be subject to reduced opportunities to participate in athletic competition and may be temporarily or permanently suspended from athletic contests and-or from the team."

Administrator Michael Coats said that the follow-up report to the board next year will include numbers on how many students were placed on athletic probation, whether they improved their behavior or what consequences they felt.

We've always agreed that coaches can be valuable mentors and participation in sports is a carrot that encourages many students to attend school and keep their grades to the basic C average. Reinstating an expectation of good citizenship — although slightly weaker than the current policy — sends the right message to junior high and high school students. Unsatisfactory citizenship in class can result in something most athletes hate — being benched.

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