P.E. exemptions for club sports based on school administration choice

Being a student-athlete makes finding time for studying difficult, but one of the benefits of being a student-athlete is the ability to receive a physical education (PE) exemptions for exercise done outside of school. 

The rule for exemptions is that someone must be in a school-sanctioned and organized sport in order to receive an exemption, but for those student-athletes who are just as involved with their non-school-sanctioned sports, they aren’t given the opportunity to opt out of PE.

According to the Iowa Department of Education (Iowa Code 281-IAC 12.4(5)f), “A student may be excused by the principal of the school in which the student is enrolled, in consultation with the student’s counselor, for up to one semester, trimester, or the equivalent of a semester or a trimester,” so the principal can issue PE exemptions, but all of this has to go through a committee first, and they then decide whether the student qualifies for one or not.

Assistant Director at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Todd Tharp said, “Any decision regarding exempting a student from physical education requirements is purely a local school district decision,” so PE exemption rules vary from school to school.

Figure skating coach Tanya Burgess said about PE exemptions, “It is common for elite and competitive athletes to receive Pe exemptions in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding areas,” So why are elite athletes in non-sanctioned sports in this area not allowed this privilege?

The committee decided to have a very clear rule to allow for exemptions. Students involved in school-sanctioned sports can qualify for an exemption. Some sports have also been included in the PE exemption even though they are not school-sanctioned. An example of this at Cedar Falls is hockey because though hockey isn’t a state school-sanctioned sport, it is school recognized, and the school has been starting to accept it into the school activities such as assemblies.

Activities that aren’t considered to be school-sanctioned but require students to be as involved as other school sports could be individual gymnastics, club swimming, tumbling, individual dance or figure skating. These activities require those students to be dedicated too.

Principal Jason Wedgbury said defining the boundaries can be tricky. “That would mean I would have to open it up to many other individual sports and that could cause problems.”

The exemption committee recognizes the dedication these sports require, but since they aren’t school-sanctioned sports, they can’t monitor them or give exemptions for them. However, Wedgbury said that they plan on revisiting the policy next year. PE exemptions could be based on the principal’s decision and might be available for those involved in non-sanctioned sports.

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