GUSTINE - Questions surrounding eligibility for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities following student suspension were a focal point of discussion at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Gustine school board.

No firm decisions were reached, but board members asked staff to return with a policy of tiered ineligibility periods to be imposed in the case of multiple suspensions for board consideration.

Currently, under Gustine High’s athletic code, a student who is suspended is automatically ineligible from participating in games for 10 days following the suspension - but that practice is not codified in board policy.

While ineligible, student athletes continue to practice with their team and can be in attendance on the sideline or bench but do not participate in games.

“We deal with some of these issues at times and they are unfortunate,” said Gustine High Principal Adam Cano. “We try to not exclude that young man or woman for that mistake. They are still a part of it; they are coming back.”

And, he said, “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.”

While board President Kevin Cordeiro voiced concerns, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Manuel Bettencourt said that he believes having a student on the sideline but banned from playing was a more meaningful punishment than excluding the individual altogether.

Board member Pat Rocha agreed, recalling an incident during her time as tennis coach during which she required a player to dress out and watch fellow team members compete. That was a more effective consequence than any else that could have been meted out, Rocha recalled.

But, she added, the appropriate consequence sometimes depends on the attitude of the student involved.

“If a student shows no remorse, things can go a lot differently,” Cano explained. “We have the authority to say that it (is best) for that player to take a break from the team. It is case by case. Sports or anything else (co-curricular) at Gustine High School is a privilege, not a right.”

Trustees agreed that if GHS is imposing a period of ineligibility following suspensions that practice should be reflected in board policy, but did not voice a preference for duration other than signaling a willingness to consider a tiered system for multiple suspensions.

Cano said, by way of example, that the policy could start with a 10-day ineligibility period, go to 45 days for a second suspension and then 12 months for a third.

Cordeiro suggested a stern consequence from the start.

“To me when a kid does something wrong, the first offense is the one you should hit him the hardest with,” he commented.

Board members expressed no interest in changing the basic eligibility requirements, which mandate that a student must maintain a 2.0 grade-point-average while making satisfactory progress toward meeting graduation requirements.

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said that it remains to be decided by the board whether students facing post-suspension ineligibility will be allowed to be on the bench or sideline with their team.

He said staff will also take a tiered proposal relating to the length of the period of ineligibility to the board for consideration.

Whatever practices and consequences are in place at the high school should be reflected in board policy, Ballenger added.

The goal, he suggested, is for those policies to also create opportunities for positive life lessons.

“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. “Kids need to learn how to be a part of an organization, and be accountable for its success.”