A group of boys and girls at Dunwoody High School like to play lacrosse. They enjoy lacrosse so much they want DeKalb County Schools to officially sign off on the required paperwork so that Dunwoody’s two teams become sanctioned and can compete against other high school teams.
They don’t want any money, not a dime. The group is confident it can fully self-fund the program. The kids already have the equipment and volunteers to start playing next school year. All they want is to play lacrosse for their school.
Sounds simple, but of course it is not.
Currently the boys’ team and the girls’ team play ‘club’ lacrosse. They play other ‘club’ teams. Clubs are not sanctioned by the county nor are they recognized by the Georgia High School Association.
A problem this year, and one that will increase for Dunwoody lacrosse players next year, is that other school districts have recognized the increased popularity of lacrosse and have made lacrosse an official sport at many high schools. As high schools outside DeKalb County (in Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett counties, etc.) switch from ‘club’ to ‘sanctioned’, the Dunwoody teams find themselves struggling to find club teams to compete against.
If DeKalb fails to allow Dunwoody to have sanctioned lacrosse teams, participation in the club sport may decrease — not due to its popularity, but due to the frustration of not having a schedule of teams to play.
So why would our school system not want to allow a group to self-fund a sport? With DeKalb’s budget decreasing annually, you’d think the school system’s central office would be thankful that an activity in demand by students be self-funded. Sadly, that’s not the case.
It seems someone at the county office is of the opinion that if Dunwoody has a lacrosse team, then every high school should have a lacrosse team. Okay, I’ll support that logic. If Chamblee Charter, Cross Keys or Miller Grove high schools want lacrosse teams, and they can self-fund them, then the school district should approve them.
But that’s the problem. Someone at the school system is touting the ‘equity’ line. What if another DeKalb high school wants a lacrosse team, but can’t fund it privately? With teacher cutbacks and schools in disrepair, I don’t fault the school system from balking at allowing new programs. But remember, Dunwoody’s lacrosse teams are not asking for money.
Equity, in my view, means that any DeKalb high school can have the same as Dunwoody: a self-funded lacrosse team. Equity, in the opinion of at least one person with decision-making importance at the central office, means that if Dunwoody pays for its own lacrosse team, the school system needs to step up and fund it at 18 other high schools in DeKalb, when funding is available. Under a tight budget, don’t look for lacrosse funding for students in DeKalb.
Tax revenue and property values continue to decrease in DeKalb. That essentially puts a freeze on new programs. That also essentially means no lacrosse team at Dunwoody High School until tax revenues increase. When is that? The year 2020? If the students at Dunwoody High School have the commitment and financial backing to self-fund a sport, the school system should allow it. The same rule should apply for other DeKalb high schools.
High schools in DeKalb are not all the same. Students have different preferences in regards to what activities in which they want to participate. Gymnastics is a sanctioned sport in DeKalb, but not all high schools have a team. Southwest DeKalb High School is known for its band. Lakeside dominates boys’ soccer. In Dunwoody, we have a group of students wanting to play lacrosse.
As lacrosse continues to grow in popularity, DeKalb should not just recognize, but rather embrace it. Just as boys’ gymnastics was discontinued as a sport in 1987, lacrosse should be recognized in 2011. Nancy Jester, a school board representative for Dunwoody, has requested the school board take up the issue next month.
View Rick Callihan’s Dunwoody Talk blog at www.dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com.