TRENTON – Today, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Linda Greenstein that would allow high schools that have sports programs that are struggling with participation or are facing budgetary constraints that are forced to eliminate certain sports to enter a cooperative sports program.
“Sports is an important activity in the lives of young people. Canceling a sports program within a high school due to the lack of participation to field a team can be stressful for the students and denies them the prospect to participate in the opportunity to potentially access university scholarships,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “This bill will ensure that all students who are interested in playing a sport and joining a team within their school district have access to certain extracurricular programs regardless of which school in the district they attend.”
“We have seen that in some cases high schools are forced to drop a sports program because there were not enough players to field squads,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This legislation returns hope to our athletes and allows students to continue participating in the sport they love, even if it is with another high school and wearing another jersey.”
The bill, S-3447, requires the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to allow under certain conditions public high schools in the same school district to enter into a cooperative sports program for any sport at the varsity level if either of the schools demonstrates an inability to field a team at the varsity level due to: a decline in interest or participation in the sport at one of the schools that impacts the ability of that school to safely field a team; or budgetary constraints which force the elimination of certain sports programs at one of the schools.
Under the current rules of the NJSIAA, schools are prohibited from entering into cooperative sports programs for basketball, baseball, softball and spring track, and in football if one of the schools is classified as a Group III school. This bill requires the NJSIAA to allow the schools to enter into cooperative sports programs regardless of the sport or the member schools’ Group classification.
This legislation was the result of one of the football programs at West Windsor Plainsboro Regional School District, High School North, losing its ability to safely field the football team. Their request to merge their program with High School South was denied at the West Jersey Football Conference, the NJSIAA, and the Department of Education.
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 24-10. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.