VISD loosens restrictions on non-UIL activities

May 6, 2011 at 12:06 a.m.

The superintendent's cabinet has again changed its regulations about non-UIL activities for middle- and high-schoolers in the Victoria school district.

After hearing comments from several community members - including athletes, coaches and parents who spoke against the regulations at the last school board meeting - the cabinet has loosened its restrictions on competitions and fundraising for activities such as cheerleading and dance.

"This is trying to find a level that still manages to open the activity participation to a larger number of students without being seen as penalizing any of those activities," said Diane Boyett, district communications specialist.

Non-University Interscholastic League activities could also include organizations such as FFA and some speech and debate activities, Boyett said. Most academic competitions fall under UIL rules, she said.

The cabinet, which is comprised of the assistant superintendents and top-level administrators, in April created restrictions for non-UIL-sanctioned activities that eliminated out-of-town travel for middle-schoolers, limited travel to one out-of-town competition for high-schoolers and placed caps on out-of-pocket expenses for both groups.

"Some of the schools had their own kind of guidelines, but it wasn't anything uniform across the district, so the overriding umbrella of this regulation is that it does make it districtwide," Boyett said.

Supporters said the current non-regulation of activities such as cheerleading excluded economically disadvantaged kids because of the time and fundraising commitments required.

Opponents who spoke against the new rules argued the regulations would eliminate experiences, such as competing, that their kids enjoy.

Boyett said most of the complaints from opponents of the regulations centered on competitions.

The revised restrictions allow for one out-of-town competition with principal approval for middle-schoolers. High-schoolers are allowed limited out-of-town competitions with principal approval, and out-of-state competitions must be approved by the school board.

"There was never an intention to limit participation," Boyett said. "In fact, what we're trying to do is expand participation. But the feedback from the campuses ... was that if you're limiting some of those competitions, you actually could be limiting participation."

The out-of-pocket expense cap per year still remains at $350 for middle school and $750 for high school.

Fundraising quotas are also not allowed, and limits have been placed on the amount of practices students can attend in the summer and after school.

Brian Morris, a 39-year-old father of a West High School cheerleader, said for years he's been vocal about the lack of regulation in cheerleading.

While other sports adhere to UIL rules limiting practice time throughout the year and during a specific sport's season, Morris said he found his daughter's devotion to cheerleading to be a nearly year-round gig.

"You have control over my family for 11 months out of the year," he said.

Morris said he thinks the cap on out-of-pocket expenses is wise, but he's still grappling with the fact that cheerleading is what he called a "pay as you play" sport.

"If they came to football and said, 'All ya'll gotta pay $750 this year to play,' how many people do you think would be screaming then?"

Overall, though, Morris said he's happy the administration listened to concerns from both sides of the issue to come up with a compromise.

He contended he's mostly satisfied with the latest changes, especially allowing middle-schoolers to compete out-of-town like their peers in other sports are allowed to.

"My daughter wants to be a cheerleader, and we want her to be a cheerleader," he said.



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