Study Hall to be limited to IHSA sports

Policy change will impact hockey players

Study Hall to be limited to IHSA sports

Casey Murray, Editor

The District 115 School Board is planning to formally restrict athletic study halls to students in IHSA sports in order to better align with state law. The rule change, agreed upon by the Board late last year, will primarily affect hockey players and is slated to enter effect beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.

LFHS currently provides athletic study halls to juniors and seniors in most sports, allowing them to substitute a study hall with credit for a gym class. This program includes certain non-IHSA sports, such as hockey, in addition to all school-sponsored IHSA sports.

The Illinois High School Association recognizes 15 boys sports and 16 girls sports, in addition to eight activities. Sports range from Girls Badminton to Boys Wrestling; activities include Journalism, Scholastic Bowl, and Debate. The School Board’s rule change will tie athletic study halls to this IHSA recognition system, which is a private organization independent of the Illinois state government.

Director of Educational Services Patrick Sassen, who oversees most counseling, scheduling, and academic affairs at the high school, offered three lines of reasoning for the decision, firstly citing the desire to more closely align diplomas to state requirements.

“We want to ensure that Lake Forest High School diplomas are aligned to state requirements. We don’t want to ever be in a situation where a student or student’s diploma is compromised in any way — same with consumer economics, same with the U.S. Constitution, same with civics,” he said.

The state requirements in question have been on the books since the 1990s. Illinois physical education standards are codified in Section 27-6 of Act 5 of Chapter 105 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes (in legal shorthand written 105 ILCS 5/27-6), which was most recently amended in 2017.

The statute, as most recently revised, requires students at public schools to participate in physical education classes for at least three days of a five-day week, but it includes several exceptions. Juniors and seniors can be excused from physical education for participation in an “interscholastic athletic program;” this provision has been the basis for the LFHS athletic study hall, Sassen said.

Juniors and seniors also can be excused to enroll in classes required to graduate from high school or attend college, and high schoolers of all grades can be excused for involvement in a marching band. A handful of other exceptions exist, including excusals for students in special education courses and case-by-case excusals for students involved in an “interscholastic or extracurricular athletic program” regardless of grade level.

These exceptions are not taken into account by the rule change; they are not mandated by Illinois state law, but merely allowed as exceptions to the physical education mandate. The School Board can implement them if it so chooses, but it does not have to; at present, it is only offering the exemption for upperclassmen athletes.

Sassen also noted that physical education is valued by the administration. “We value wellness and the experience of physical education,” he said. “They’re tied into social and emotional learning standards, they’re tied into physical activity standards… it’s important to us.”

The administration also needed a fair standard to decide who gets athletic study halls and who does not. They chose the IHSA requirement in order to “keep it simple” and follow the example of other high schools in the area, Sassen said.

Junior William Schlachtenhaufen, who plays under the colors of Lake Forest High School on the hockey team, said that the policy change made “little to no sense” because hockey represents a significant commitment of time and energy.

“Hockey begins in August and ends in March,” Schlachtenhaufen said. “The sport that spends the most time receiving no study hall is far from the way the athletic study halls should be applied.”

The School Board will be meeting on April 8 in the Administrative Center Board Room at West Campus, as it does on the second Monday of every month. Community members — including students with something to say — are encouraged to attend.