TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Peter J. Barnes aimed at curtailing the practice of students repeating sixth, seventh or eighth grade for the purpose of gaining an athletic advantage advanced through the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee today. The practice, commonly referred to as redshirting, has been on the rise in New Jersey.
“This is about playing fairly and about equal opportunity for all kids playing sports in New Jersey,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “Holding a child back to get a competitive advantage is simply cheating. Instead, we need to encourage good sportsmanship and perseverance and teach our young athletes that through hard work they will reap the benefits.”
The bill, S-381, would prohibit school districts from joining voluntary associations which oversee statewide interscholastic sports programs unless the association requires that when “hold-back repeat students” enter the ninth grade for the first time, they are only eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for the ensuing six consecutive semesters. “Hold-back repeat students” are defined as students who successfully completed the academic requirements that have been established for sixth through eighth grades and who repeat one or more of those grades for the purposes of gaining athletic advantage.
“Holding children back academically for athletic dreams that are more often than not unrealized sends out the wrong message to our youth, and this bill will put an end to this practice,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Repeating a school year goes against the purpose of school as an institution. It defeats the intended purpose of school, which is to provide children with an education and the tools necessary to enable their future success.”
Under current rules of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs the state’s high school sports programs, a student-athlete is eligible to compete as a high school senior provided that he or she does not turn 19 before September 1st of that school year. The rules also state that an athlete may only play interscholastic high school sports for eight consecutive semesters.
The bill passed the committee with a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.