Amid mounting pressure from a Lafayette lawmaker, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association says it will consider a proposal at its convention next week to incrementally raise the required grade point average for high school athletes. The current GPA requirement stands at 1.5 — a D average. However, according to an article today in The Daily Advertiser, LHSAA Commissioner Kenny Henderson, who attended a pre-convention meeting at the Chenier Center in Lafayette  Wednesday, says a hike over three years will be considered.

According to the proposal that will be introduced at the convention, student athletes would be required to pass six class units each semester; the 1.5 requirement would remain in place for the 2010-2011 school year, and would rise to 1.75 and then 2.0 in the two subsequent school years. Currently, high school athletes are required to maintain a 1.5 GPA and to pass five class units per semester, which, if a student maintains only the minimum requirement, results in the student being four credits short of graduating despite being eligible to participate in sports for four years.

State Rep. Rickey Hardy, who attended Wednesday’s meeting in Lafayette, has tried in the last two consecutive legislative sessions to raise the GPA requirement to 2.0. Hardy’s legislation failed to make it out of committee, due in large part to opposition from the LHSAA and high school athletic directors, who have argued that raising the standard would increase the drop-out rate among marginal students for whom athletics is their primary reason for staying in school.

“I’m certainly satisfied with phasing it in,” Hardy said Thursday. “I introduced the bill in 2008 and had some resistance; some folks felt it would’ve been good to phase it in. But at that time I felt that the standard was so low that we should go ahead on and raise it to a 2.0. However, in 2009 I said that we could do it in increments — it would be acceptable.”

Hardy says no matter what the outcome is at the LHSAA convention next week, he will reintroduce the 2.0 GPA bill in the spring session, pointing out that neighboring states Texas and Mississippi have already raised their minimum GPA to 2.0. But, the Lafayette lawmaker says the LHSAA proposal is a positive development. “It is a victory, for not only me, but more importantly for the children.”

This latest development in the GPA saga comes less than a week after the parent of a Lafayette High basketball player filed suit in state district court against the Lafayette Parish School Board. Attorney Curtis Hollinger argues in the suit that the LPSB’s 1.5 GPA requirement is discriminatory and promotes academic underachievement.

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