PE exemptions need change: state must change PE exemption policy for students in club sports : Bear Facts

PE exemptions need change: state must change PE exemption policy for students in club sports

October 18, 2011 • Kat Pauli, Sports Writer  
Filed under Viewpoint

IHSA sanctioned sports are given PE exemptions, while athletes in unsanctioned sports are required to participate in PE classes. Students in unsanctioned sports deserve to be exempt as well.

Non-sanctioned sports have schedules and practices that are just as rigorous as school sports. For instance, golf and bowling are granted exemptions, while lacrosse is not, despite the fact that at LZHS, the lacrosse teams practice as often as these school teams. Emerging sports such as lacrosse are labeled by the IHSA due to the number of teams in the state, not the level of fitness the sport requires. This means that emerging sports require the same amount of work and effort as a sanctioned sport, but do not receive the same treatment. 

Marching band students are also given PE exemptions. Marching band is not considered a sport, and while students who march may receive some physical benefits, they are not taught fitness and health skills, like students in a sport are ingrained with.

Sports help students learn the same skills that PE teaches them, which is why PE exemptions are granted to upperclassmen in a varsity or JV sport. PE classes are required to develop physical skills, encourage fitness, offer team building experience, and increase knowledge of health, according to the Illinois Board of Education. Sports at LZHS teach these skills by encouraging exercise, even during the offseason, and help students work together, even in the case of individual sports, which promote cheering on team mates. Sports which meet all these criteria but are not IHSA sanctioned cannot be exempt, despite the benefits they provide athletes with.

If a school does not field a team in a sport, even if the sport is IHSA sanctioned, students who participate in that sport outside of school are ineligible for exemptions.

Noelle Harada, a sophomore gymnast who competes with Libertyville Gymnastics Academy at level 10 (which is one level below an Olympic gymnast), is not granted PE exemptions because LZHS does not have a gymnastics team. Harada practices 17 hours a week or more during her competition season.

“I feel like I should get an exemption,” Harada said, “just because our school doesn’t have [a team], I shouldn’t get penalized.”

Harada sport requires more practice, equal effort, and teaches the same long term fitness skills as a school sport, but unfairly is denied PE exemptions at LZHS.

Lake Zurich is not the only school affected by this policy, and all Illinois schools should push for PE exemptions for unsanctioned sports.

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