Uncovering the Student-Athlete Handbook

Maggie Grant, Will Hutensky, and Eli Heinen

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Imagine getting in trouble for breaking a rule you did not know existed. That was the reality for a Hall student this fall. A carefully written rule in the Student-Athlete Handbook penalized a student for an action before the school year had even started because their athletic season had begun. So what is the Student-Athlete Handbook?

The Student-Athlete Handbook is a document that outlines the rules and regulations that apply to all student-athletes in the Hall High athletic program. This 18-page document can be found on the school’s website but is never presented to athletes. According to Jason Siegal, the Director of Athletics for West Hartford Public Schools, the handbook is revised every year to update the rules based on current events. Most students do not know that it exists.

The Student-Athlete Handbook is never directly presented to students; most coaches don’t even acknowledge its existence until a problem involving one of their athletes occurs. Sam Harrington, a Senior who has played sports at Hall for the past four years had a strong opinion on this topic, “It seems sneaky that they have these extra set of rules and none of the coaches acknowledge it.” After further research into the Student-Athlete Handbook we have come to notice that we do in fact sign off on it. When you/your parent signs up for sports on the Hall Athletic page, under the “statement of permission” it states, “I agree to and have read and understand the athletic department policies as stated in the Student-Athlete Handbook.” Should something so important to students be only in the fine print of a box we check off on? Harrington, like many others, feels that it is very “misleading”. Not being presented with this document until a problem arises is a problem that Student-Athletes should be more concerned about.

When Student-Athletes around Hall were asked about the Student-Athlete Handbook, their answers were very similar. Sophomore Lola Smith was confused when asked about the handbook, responding “Is there actually one?” Smith was unaware of the handbook’s existence and insisted she had never signed off on it. Another Student-Athlete, Junior Liv Bonee, was also not aware of the Student-Athlete Handbook until recently. She had signed off on it when registering for basketball. Now aware of this issue, Bonee said, “I feel like I need to go read it”.

It has become evident that most Student-Athletes did not know this handbook existed. One of these reasons may be because unlike the Student Handbook, students do not need to sign off on it. According to Athletic Director Siegal, “families sign off on the athlete handbook as part of the online registration process at the beginning of each sports season”. But if students are being held to the standards in the handbook, should they be given the handbook and have to sign off of it?

Senior Avery Polk and Freshman Bridget Mcgann believe so. They do not think that students should be expected to follow rules if they are never provided them. Sophomore Brooks Mcconnell took a stronger stance than the girls, calling the current distribution policy “unfair”. Siegal has a different take, indicating that the handbook is provided to everyone, as it “lives on the athletics page of the school website in which coaches, students, and parents can access it as necessary”.

A lack of knowledge and understanding of the handbook will continue to lead to instances of confusion when policies detailed in the handbook are enforced. It is essential for students planning to participate in athletics at Hall to read and understand the rules in the handbook they are expected to follow. If not, they risk personal liability.