GUSTINE - Students at Gustine High who incur multiple school suspensions will face longer periods of ineligibility from extra-curricular activity under a policy presented to the school board at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Under current practice, a student suspended from school is ineligible for extra-curricular or co-curricular activities for 10 days after the suspension.

But after the board last month signaled a desire to strengthen the consequences, staff returned with a board policy which applies a 45-day ineligibility period following a second suspension and 90 days of ineligibility following a third.

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said he is comfortable with the proposed standards.

He also noted that, depending on the nature of the offense, stronger discipline may be imposed before a third suspension is meted out.

“We may not get to a third, but if we do generally that will be your last one anyway as far as regular school goes,” Ballenger commented. “I do think it is fair. As an athlete you have to be held to a higher standard because you are representing the school in everything you do.”

But, Ballenger added, “it is very rare for our student-athletes to have suspensions to begin with, let alone multiple suspensions.”

Board policy does not currently speak to the practice of making students sit out extra-curricular activities following a suspension, he noted. Addressing eligibility concerns was an opportunity to not only bring consistency to policy and practice but to have the board weigh in on consequences.

“We want to make sure that we are consistent with policies,” Ballenger said.

Trustees voted 4-0, with Kevin Cordeiro and Gary Silva absent, to introduce the policy, which will come back in January for a second reading and consideration of formal adoption.

In a related step, Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said, concerns voiced by board members regarding a practice of allowing athletes to appear with their team during their ineligibility period is being addressed in the high school student handbook.

Student-athletes will not be allowed to be with their team on the bench or sidelines at games during the ineligibility period, he stated.

“There was a student who was (ineligible) and seen in uniform with the (football) team at a game. It became a point of contention and I understand that,” Ballenger commented.

However, he reiterated, student-athletes can continue to practice with their team during the ineligibility period which follows a suspension.

“We don’t want to completely take the activity away from the student,” he explained. “We don’t know what happens when they leave us in the afternoon.”

“If we exclude them for 10 days, what do they do for those 10 days? We want them involved, not sitting at home doing nothing,” Principal Adam Cano told the board in November.

Ultimately, Ballenger said previously, the purpose is to instill accountability and teach life lessons in the process.

“Kids have to learn that they are accountable for their actions. Missing games is hard, but if they did the same thing at work they would lose their job and their income,” Ballenger pointed out in November. “Kids need to learn how to be a part of an organization, and be accountable for its success.”