Split School Board Adopts Policy Change Banning Charter School Students From District Athletics


Charter school students and their parents were among a packed house Sept. 22 at the Board of Education meeting.

Despite some boisterous objections from parents and students, the Board of Education Sept. 22 adopted a policy modification banning charter school students from participating in district athletic programs.

The modification passed 6-2, with board members Richard Seamon and Pat Stanley casting the only “no” votes. The ban affects students attending the township’s two current charter schools, the Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School and Central Jersey College Prep Charter School.

Board president Ed Potosnak has said that if charter school students want to play on athletic teams, they should lobby their school boards to create them.

The charter school supporters were among a packed audience in the Franklin Middle School cafeteria during the board’s nearly four-hour meeting.

The policy change does not kick in until the 2017-18 school year, and it “grandfathers” those township residents in charter schools who played on a district middle or high school team during the 2016-17 school year. It also allows those students to play on district teams until they graduate high school, provided that they play every year.

Most of the people who addressed the board on the topic were against the proposed change. Many cited the fact that charter schools are considered to be public schools, and argued that their students should be able to play on district teams.

“Why does the board seek to shirk their responsibility?” asked Robert  Peterson. He charged the board with being “divisive” and creating an “us versus them mentality.”

“Who is served by this ban?” he asked. He questioned whether the board was “punishing” charter school parents for exercising “their right to school choice.”

Brianna Griffin, a junior at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School who is a member of the FHS varsity girls’ track and swimming teams, said of her fellow students that she feels “very disappointed that they won’t have the same opportunity to play on sports teams.”

Her mother, Sondra Griffin, said her daughter helped the girls’ track team enjoy its successful season last year.

Asha Xasudevan told the board they should focus more on why there are hundreds of students on the waiting lists of the two charter schools.

Former board member Ed Webb told the board that he “finds it offensive that you would put something like this out.”

“You are talking about kids in a community,” he said. “They are labeled as public schools, and they are part of the community. At the end of the day, it is about us as a community coming together.”

The ban did have its supporters in the audience.

Michael Steinbruck said he supported the ban because he “believe(s) in public schools.”

“I feel bad for these kids, but I say, come on back to the public schools,” he said, to a chorus of boos from the audience.

Michael Smith said that “if the money goes with the student to the charter school, then they forfeit their right” to participate in district activities, he said.

Ardaman Singh, a school board candidate, said she supported the ban because of what she called the “financial drain” charter schools have on the district.

This school year, the district will funnel more than $9 million to the two schools. A third school has been proposed and is awaiting  state approval.

Seamon made an effort to indefinitely table the policy modification, but he and Stanley were the only two members to vote for it.

Seamon said that while he appreciated the change to the policy allowing for the grandfathering of current athletes, he said that change just made the policy worse.

“I find it offensive to create a separate class of citizen,” he said, echoing Webb.

When the final vote was taken, only Seamon and Stanley voted against the change. Board member Julia Presley was absent from the meeting.


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