Kentucky lawmakers are reviewing a proposal that would place middle school athletics under the control of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, with the regulations going into effect for the 2014-15 school year.
If approved, the measure would mark the first time middle schools fell under statewide oversight.
The state board of education has already signed on to the idea. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett told the Lexington Herald-Leader the lack of statewide oversight over middle school athletics has led to problems that include some schools playing more games during a season than is considered safe and parents holding students back a year simply for athletic reasons.
The regulation was filed with the Legislative Research Commission on Friday. After a month long public comment period and a public hearing, the General Assembly's Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee and the Interim Joint Committee on Education will give the regulation a final review.
Tackett said the agency would deal with middle schools using a different model than it uses for high schools. Instead of governing middle schools, the KHSAA would provide staff and coordination for a 21-member regionally balanced committee composed mostly of educators who have expertise in middle school athletics.
The regulation, approved by the state board of education in April, sets some fundamental guidelines, but many specific rules would be decided by the middle school committee and local school districts.
"We're governing high school sports, we are overseeing this middle school project ... I hope this leads to the development of a strong middle school program," Tackett said.
Because middle school athletes have needs that are different from high school athletes, the yet-to-be-named committee members "can't just Xerox the high school rules," Tackett said.
High school sports in the state are governed by the bylaws of the KHSAA, but there is no similar organization for middle school athletics, for which local school boards make their own rules. Also, private citizens have established nonprofit organizations to establish playoffs and championships in some areas of the state for middle school sports such as football and wrestling.
In 1993, a task force recommended that the KHSAA expand its scope to include middle school athletics, but that was never done because of finances and lack of manpower. Tackett said the KHSAA can now handle the oversight of health and safety rules.
Under the proposals, beginning with the 2014-15 school year, students would not be able to compete in middle school during a year in which they are repeating a grade for any reason, under the regulation. Students could compete in later middle school years, Tackett said.
A similar rule has been in place for high school students for years, Tackett said.
Middle school students wouldn't be able to play more games than high school students are allowed to play. Under Kentucky law, seventh- and eighth-grade students may play at the high school level in most sports except soccer, wrestling and football. That wouldn't change under the new regulation.