KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On Monday night, parents in Jackson County said a college preparatory school is allowing athletes to play with poor grades.
La Tonyia Clemons’ son fell through the cracks. He was a star senior football player at Hogan Preparatory Academy in Kansas City with abysmal grades.
"They're terrible. He didn't graduate on time, he's carried probably a D average the majority of this year," she said.
The single mother of three tried pulling her son out of football for a semester as punishment, but she eventually allowed him to go back--fearing he'd end up getting in trouble on the streets.
"I started attending school at night and I just didn't want to leave my kids at home doing nothing while I'm at work eight hours a day and then in school an additional two to three hours a night," Clemons said.
Like most high schools in the state, Hogan Prep follows the rules of the Missouri State High School Activities Association, which allows students with a seven-hour day to play a sport if they pass 80 percent of their classes. But a passing grade is a D and Hogan Prep parents want school administrators to raise the bar.
"As a kid, you can bounce a ball, run a football, a lot of kids can do that. But you have a greater chance of being an engineer than you do being an NFL star," parent Stacy Jackson said.
Parents like Jackson and Clemons want the school to create a policy that forces students to have at least a 2.0 GPA to play a sport.
And while the board admits it’s responsible for creating policies at the school, they wouldn't tell us if they plan to raise the academic standards for athletes at Hogan Prep.
"If you've got parents that are concerned about their kids’ education, they need to get off the box and get into the fray and say, ‘Junior is not going to play if he's not eligible,’" School Board President Willie Mahone said.
But parents say it’s not that simple.
"It means so much to him. It makes him feel a part of something. It's bigger than running that ball up and down that field for those boys," Clemons said."With the passion for football and the love that they have for the coaches and the loyalty they have to their school, if we raise the bar, they are going to come with us.”
Superintendent Dr. Danny Tipton released a statement Monday night that reads:
We are in the business of educating students – all students.
As we move forward in reviewing policies in the future is important that we do not leave any students behind.
We have had a rich history of sending students to post secondary education where they have been successful.
We will continue to reassess what are students required to be successful at the next level. We are open to the concerns of our parents and community and will work hard to ease their minds that we are here for all students regardless of what academic level they arrive.
The Kansas City Public School District is in the process of creating at "You pass, you play" policy that aims to put a premium on student performance. Shawnee Mission created an eligibility policy that goes beyond the state standards of a 1.5 GPA.