Board considers policy change

Floyd County Board of Education Chair Sherry Robinson, center, tells Public Advocate Brandis Bradley that members will consider changes to a policy related to athletics during a recent meeting.

The Floyd County Board of Education is considering changing one of its athletic policies, after remarks provided by a parent recently to the board.

Public Advocate Brandis Bradley addressed the Floyd County Board of Education during a meeting last week to request that principals and coaches be given more discretion in dealing with issues related to sports.

Bradley, the daughter of retired teacher Debbie Bradley, reported that she is raising two children who attend Betsy Layne Elementary and one of them is a cheerleader there.

She talked about how health problems her mother is facing is impacting the children, reporting that it has been “a really emotional, trying time” for them, especially for the cheerleader.

“She went from a vibrant, outgoing child to ... withdrawing and, all of a sudden, a shy kid who didn’t have any friends and such,” Bradley said.

She said the child improved, however, after joining the team.

“She loved it. It was her escape from her reality at home,” Bradley said. She went on to say that cheerleading has “truly changed her life.”

Bradley talked about a recent game at Adams Middle School. She said work requirements kept her from getting the child to the bus to ride to the school with the team on time. She decided to drive her, instead, to the school.

“We beat the bus there by five minutes and we’re waiting. When the bus pulls in, I let her out of the car, she walks into the school with all the kids from Betsy Layne,” Bradley said. “I had to run back to my office real quick in Prestonsburg and no sooner than I pulled out of the Adams’ parking lot, (the child) is calling me and she is in tears. She’s saying, I may not get to cheer tonight because I didn’t ride the bus down here, and I’m thinking that doesn’t make any practical sense. You beat the bus here. And she said that’s just the rule and there’s no getting around it or whatever and my coach is going to talk to Mr. Parsons because he was there.”

She called BLES Principal Jonathan Parsons a “hero” for going against district policy and persuading the coach to let her daughter cheer that night.

“But, it was relayed to me that Mr. Parsons wasn’t supposed to do that,” Bradley said. “My goal is not to get him in trouble. I hope you see what he really did here was save a child, you know, because that would have just broken her heart.”

She said the district policy is “harsh.”

“I understand policies are important, but I think we need — if that is the blanket policy, no exceptions — I would ask that the board just revisit that and take a look at that and trust our teachers and our coaches and our staff here to have discretion in these matters,” Bradley said. “I mean, we trust our children with them all day long. I think we can trust them to make a decision as to whether or not this instance can be an exception to the rule.”

The board of education’s practice is to not directly answer comments from audience members, but officials made an exception in this case. Several board members voiced favor for changing the policy.

“I think that sometimes we overlook how much responsibility that our principals have at the school level,” Board Member Linda Gearheart said. “And I feel like, the caliber of principals we have now that they should have, that they know enough and know situations enough to make decisions when it comes to things such as, not only this, but there’s all kinds of scenarios that happen from day to day.”

Board Member Junior Newsome talked about how the policy impacted students he coached.

“I’d like to say that I’m not sure how old this policy is, but several years ago, I had a couple of basketball players that were late for the bus and they had to miss the ballgame. They didn’t get to play, so,” he said. “I couldn’t get the board to change it then, but we will take a look at it.”

Superintendent Danny Adkins said the policy may be 30 years old.

“I can go a little further with that,” Board Chair Sherry Robinson said. “I’ve been on the board for, what, 15 years now? And, it’s been addressed in the past, but the attorney that we had at the time would not waiver. So, if we had changed the policy, then — and things are different now. So, it may be something we could revisit, look at different laws and how it affects it. So, there can be things that we can do now, whereas in the past, we were limited.”

Robinson said the board wants every student to have the opportunity to play sports.

Gearheart said, “We’re here to make things better for the student, not harder.”

One of the reports approved by the board at the meeting showed that 16 elementary students, 29 middle school and two high school students were ineligible to play sports because of academics and 14 elementary, one middle school and two high school students were ineligible because of attendance to play sports this fall.

In other news, the board approved a measure that allows Dairy Queen to provide free items for children who have perfect attendance — one of several ways district staff and officials are working to increase attendance this year.

Approving that report, Robinson emphasized the importance of the data.

“I just want it said that these reports are looked at and they are paid very close attention to, and we don’t take that lightly. If we have students that are tardy or missing class or are not showing up, we really need to have these documented and reported and included in the reports. I think I speak for all of us on how important that is to us because if you’re not coming to school, then you don’t get to participate in any of the programs,” she said.

Attendance is down 0.36 percent over the same time period last year, the board learned in the meeting, with attendance at 94.58 so far this year.

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