COMMENTARY: It’s time to rid of the sit-out rule, students need to play sports now more than ever

September 14, 2020 /

September marks the one-year anniversary of the Delano Joint Union High School District adopting the one-year sit-out rule, which prohibits transferring students from playing sports for one year. Emily Gorospe, a youth reporter for Kern Sol News and student at Cesar E. Chavez High in Delano, is a member of the Equal Play group, comprised of students opposing the sit-out rule. Gorospe submitted this letter to the District’s board last week in honor of the anniversary. This letter has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Delano Joint Union High School District Board Members and Superintendent Jason Garcia,  

You may have forgotten, but Sept. 10 marks one year since you all voted no on getting rid of the one year sit-out rule. Equal Play has not forgotten. Although it is still troubling that the decision to bench transfer students has  been kept, we still believe it should be removed. Due to the pandemic that is happening right now, all sports are being pushed back. What does that mean for transfers? If COVID-19 fails to improve, will students who sat out last year have to sit out once again?  

Boundaries must be changed. They don’t make sense. Board members, teachers, administration, coaches, and the community of Delano and Earlimart know that students go to schools (elementary through high school) outside of their designated boundaries. We advocated for sports but learned this is much broader than sports.

Recently, students have wanted to cheer at RFK, play basketball at DT, play in the CCHS band, and participate in the DT FFA program. Students who participate in these programs sometimes play sports too. Why should they be punished because they’re coming from a different neighborhood that’s not in the boundary? It seems like almost everyone knows everyone in Delano. Family and friends let each other use each other’s addresses and that’s common knowledge. Just about everyone we talked to agreed that the rule isn’t reasonable especially because the district turns the other way with a lot of athletes and programs. 

When we were heavily advocating last year, some of you said that football was the main reason for students wanting to transfer. We agreed with that because it’s common knowledge in our community.

For example, many years ago DT (Delano High) was the popular school for football and boys who lived in different parts of town went to DT to play football. For example, someone who lives at the Brandywine Apartments is designated to go to RFK High School when Delano High School is closer.

These kinds of considerations — like where students live — is often ignored.

The 5-0 DJUHSD vote in September 2019 caused a lot of mental stress for those of us who couldn’t compete and play on our team sports. DJUHSD claims to care about the mental and emotional health of the students but this vote proved that to be misleading. The mental health for many students is concerning because of social distancing when our schools like the rest of the state and country understandably announced they shut down back in March 2020.

Students with hyperactivity disorders who needed sports no longer had that structured outlet. Students who were in sports to stay out of the streets no longer had that safe place to practice and compete. Turning to drugs and alcohol has been an escape for some students because the school sports aren’t there. Everyone, regardless if they are transfer students or not, should be able to play sports when the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic is gone, and it’s safe to play again. 

Last year, when the Board members voted, they abruptly ended the meeting. Students in Equal Play were stunned because we didn’t understand what happened. If it weren’t for Superintendent Jason Garcia, no one would have heard from us. He opened the meeting back up for us to have our moment to speak. With tears in our eyes and struggling to speak through crying, we spoke about the anguish the DJUHSD Board gave to us and future transfer students. 

One year later no one expected us to be in a worldwide pandemic. This has changed our world and our community. It has changed us. We’re now learning primarily through screens from our homes because schools are shut down.

Physical education isn’t the same, but we need it and it’s not easy to do through a screen every day. This should make you more compelled to allow students to play and eliminate the one-year sit-out rule. No one should have to be blocked from being physically active because of this absurd rule.  

Thank you for your time in reading this letter.

Respectfully submitted, 

Emily Gorospe on behalf of Equal Play 

Emily Gorospe

Emily Gorospe, 15, was born and raised in Delano, CA and attends Cesar E. Chavez High School. She enjoys playing team sports competitively, and appreciates spending time with family and friends.