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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 today. The practice, commonly referred to as redshirting, has been on the rise in New Jersey.

“This is about making sure all kids playing sports have a fair chance and equal opportunity. It’s about encouraging them to work hard to earn their place on a team, and teaching them the values of good sportsmanship and perseverance,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “Holding a child back to get a competitive advantage is simply cheating, and this bill will put an end to that practice.”

The bill, S-3221, 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.

“Encouraging children to stay back academically to chase the possibility of a future sports scholarship is the wrong message to send to our youth,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Our schools serve a mission, and that is to provide children with an education and the tools necessary to enable their success in their future. Repeating an academic year unnecessarily stands against that intended purpose.”

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 Senate with a vote of 33-1. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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