School Board ponders club sports, activities status

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Skip through a high school yearbook these days and you may be surprised at the sum of what today's students are up to outside the classroom. There are--as you would expect--the schools' varsity and junior varsity athletic teams, but you may find others you weren't expecting, such as lacrosse, archery, rifle teams, even mountain biking.

That's just the sports. There's all manner of clubs for special interests, language, career-oriented, social and spiritually-focused groups. Unlike the varsity sports and a few others, most aren't officially sanctioned by the schools. That doesn't mean they aren't important.

Mike Doering, executive director of Student Services, says, "The more kids are involved, whether it's sports, whether it's activities, whether it's our district-sponsored sports or activities, whether it's outside activities, it's wonderful."

Brian Williams, who heads the anti-bullying organization Think Kindness, says, "They find something that taps into their own self-interest, something that they want to develop and grow and flourish from their creative ability, their intellect or their athleticism and to represent their school as well as our community."

Williams is a motivational speaker who specializes in youth issues.

"The data is out there. If a student feels like they play a positive role in their school community, they are less likely to bully. They are more likely to seek help. They are less likely to have suicidal thoughts."

So if there's little debate about their worth, what issue is putting a proposed policy change before the school board? A lot of it has to do with fairness and equity. For instance, an athlete playing lacrosse at one school may win a letter, but not at another.

Doering says, "Whatever it is for one school, it should be equal for all of the schools. For us, letters are for district sponsored activities."

Doering admits the district's legal advisors raise liability concerns about the perception that some clubs--though they may have their own insurance--are sanctioned by the schools they appear to represent.

Williams says something valuable will be lost if the chance to represent their school is taken away.

"They feel like they are part of a team and for us to say 'You have this interest, but you're separate' doesn't really grow that sense of community."