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New rules on clubs at schools delayed

By LETITIA STEIN
Published August 16, 2006


TAMPA - Hillsborough school officials know that many parents want a say in what clubs their children join.

But the district's plan to require parental permission for club membership seemed to some School Board members to create as many problems as it solved. So on Tuesday, the board decided to hold off on setting new rules for school clubs.

"This is one of those issues, like the calendar and boundaries," said School Board member Candy Olson, who asked for public feedback. "The community needs to be heard from, and we need to hear from them."

Michael Freincle, a 2006 graduate of Brandon High School, agreed emphatically. Neither he nor any other member of the public could speak at Tuesday's workshop.

So Freincle, who sat on a committee that last year reviewed club rules, spent the day at the district's downtown headquarters meeting one on one with School Board members to explain his concerns.

District officials took the parental permission concept a step further than the committee, which formed after a controversy erupted over a Gay-Straight Alliance at Newsome High School. And even though School Board members avoided direct references to gay clubs during Tuesday's discussion, Freincle called it "the underlying issue."

"We cannot deny the fact that's the reason that we are here today," said Freincle, a founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Brandon High.

But he was pleased to see the focus shifted to the bigger picture of inconsistencies in rules governing clubs.

Some schools already request parental permission to join certain clubs. Even within schools, rules can vary from club to club, said Lewis Brinson, assistant superintendent for administration in Hillsborough.

But School Board members worried about creating too much paperwork for teachers. They feared penalizing students whose parents didn't return the paperwork. At the same time, some were reluctant to ask parents to sign open-ended approval for children to join clubs the beginning of the school year.

"This is kind of a no-win situation in some occasions because there are such differences of opinion," board member Doretha Edgecomb said.

Board members also wanted more discussion about liability issues associated with athletic clubs that aren't sanctioned as high school sports but meet at schools, such as rowing, hockey and lacrosse clubs. They sent the issues back to a committee of stakeholders for further discussion. The board plans on seeking public comment before future decisions.

[Last modified August 16, 2006, 05:46:48]


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