The governing body for athletic programs in the state’s public schools today voted to require student athletes to maintain a C average in order to participate in sports. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association also voted to increase the required number of class credits earned per semester from five to six. Currently, students who meet only the minimum requirement of five credits per semester wind up four credits short of graduation by their senior year. The new requirements will go into effect this fall.

State Rep. Rickey Hardy, who has filed bills in the last two legislative sessions to require student athletes to maintain a 2.0 GPA, applauds today’s vote: “I am gratified that the Louisiana High School Athletic Association finally saw fit to issue a policy that is academically beneficial to our high school student athletes. Though it is unfortunate that I had to hold their feet to the legislative fire in order to get something done,” he says in a statement issued to the media this afternoon.

The LHSAA had been under pressure for years to raise its minimum academic requirement for athletes. Right now student athletes are required to maintain a 1.5 grade point average, which is a D, in order to be on a team roster. Howevever, shifting the requirement from a numeric average to an alphabetic average could allow school systems to lower the range for a C — there is no state mandate for grade ranges — to in effect water down their academic standards, although that could force the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education, through the Legislature, to establish a state-mandated grading scale.

The Lafayette Parish School System awards a C for scores from 74 to 82 — in line with, if not slightly tougher than, most systems in the state. Spokeswoman Angie Simoneaux says the LPSS has no intention of changing the grade range for a C.

In fact, according to data gather recently by LPSS Athletic Director James Simmons, student athletes in Lafayette Parish perform well academically. The parish has roughly 1,400 varsity athletes in more than a dozen sports ranging from football to cross-country. Among them, 89 percent maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher. “The LPSS has a strong tradition of student athletic programs in which our children excel athletically and academically, and we feel it is important to recognize these young men and women who work so hard on the field and in the classroom,” Simoneaux says in an e-mail to the INDsider.

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