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Task Force Concludes Work to Improve Middle School Athletics

The Kentucky Board of Education will soon reconsider its policies governing middle school athletics following final recommendations crafted this week by a legislative task force.
The 17-member team was formed this year to recommend ways KDE can provide better oversight regarding the health and safety of Kentucky’s middle school athletes.Already this year Kentucky has taken steps to bring middle school athletics in line with policies governing high school sports. Gov. Steve Beshear signed legislation in April, which extends mandatory training to all school coaches.“I think there has been a real acceleration of middle school participation. The reason there’s never been a governing body is simply because it’s never happened,” said Wilson Sears, a task force member and executive director of the Kentucky Association of Schools Superintendents.The Kentucky High School Athletics Association, KHSAA, is the governing agency overseeing high school athletes and policy. The question remains whether KDE will decide to form a similar agency for middle schools or have the KHSAA absorb responsibilities of governing all grade levels, which Sears said would likely lead to an increase in agency size.“Whether or not they could put in place an agency like the KHSAA by the beginning of the 13/14 school year I’m not sure,” he said.The final recommendations include developing playing limitations that protect the health of students. Also included is the tracking of injury and incident reports.Next week, the board of education will be briefed on the recommendations, according to Kevin Brown, general counsel for KDE.“Most likely, some regulatory changes based upon the recommendations will be proposed by the KDE/Commissioner to the KBE for first read at the February KBE meeting.   Second reading would be at the April KBE meeting.   After the second reading, the regulation will be filed with the LRC (Legislative Research Commission) and then proceed through the public comment period (May-June), then through legislative committee review before becoming law,” Brown wrote in an email to WFPL.Below are the recommendations in draft form. According to the Kentucky Legislative Review Committee, there may be minor changes and one possible addition, pending approval by the task force co-chairs.

·        The Kentucky Board of Education should resume its study of middle school interscholastic athletics to determine if middle school athletics should be managed by the local school or school district, the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, a middle school athletic association similar to KHSAA, or an umbrella agency established to provide direction for non-profit organizations.   ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should establish a permanent workgroup within the identified governing agency to provide an opportunity for nonprofit athletic groups, parents, and others to participate and provide input on the sport, athletic event, or athletes involved in interscholastic activities through local school districts. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should require any nonprofit organizations sanctioned by the board to manage middle school athletics to provide documentation of financial accountability; Title IX compliance; and completion of mandatory training by all coaches, including paraprofessionals and volunteer coaches. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should consider how to require any athletic event conducted by and between school-based teams through a nonprofit or non-sanctioned Kentucky High School Athletics Association event for interscholastic activity to report injuries, meet insurance requirements, determine eligibility of participation, and conduct of athletes and coaches. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should require all middle school athletic teams to follow existing Kentucky High School Athletic Association rules related to physical examinations, medical coverage, heat index, and concussions. ·         The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should determine limitations on the number of allowable contests during the school year in each middle school sport that could only be waived to allow for a postseason championship event. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should explore options to ensure student athletes, coaches, schools, and school boards are provided adequate accident and injury insurance coverage during an athletic event or while athletes are being transported by a school vehicle to or from an athletic event. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should require and track injury and incident reporting for all interscholastic sports activities. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education should consider adopting statewide eligibility rules to include age restrictions for all athletes and restrictions for participation on high school teams by athletes enrolled below grade nine. Eligibility rules may differ by sport. ·        The Kentucky Board of Education or its designee should require all middle school coaches, including paraprofessional and volunteers, to meet existing certification requirements, pass a criminal background check, and complete all training required by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association for high school coaches. The board or its designee should ensure all coaches complete these requirements.