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 cleared the Senate yesterday. The practice, commonly referred to as redshirting, has been on the rise in New Jersey.
“Holding a child back to gain competitive advantage in sports is cheating. It diminishes good sportsmanship values and must not be allowed,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “This bill is about ensuring fairness and equal opportunity for all kids playing sports in New Jersey.”
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.
“The health and social benefits of participation in sports are undeniable, but we must not lose sight of the primary function of our schools, and that is to provide children with a solid education to enable their future success,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Keeping children back to chase athletic aspirations chips away at the very foundation of school and sends the wrong message to our youth.”
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 cleared the Senate with a vote of 39-1. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.