A Need For Change in PE Policy


Photo courtesy of Blue Raider Studios

Ryan Rose

Hardly any Somerset Berkley student has perfect attendance, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to numerous quarantines in the past few years. For most classes, this isn’t an issue. If you happen to miss an English class, it’s easy to catch up on whatever reading you have missed or to work on an essay that your peers worked on in class. If you are absent on the day of a Chemistry test, most teachers welcome you to make it up after school or during Blue Raider Block. If you miss a gym class however, you lose points towards the weekly participation grade, which makes up your whole grade in the class.


The idea of weekly participation making up your gym class grade is actually a really good one. It ensures that all students are actively participating in class and doesn’t penalize students who may not be as athletically talented as their peers who are on sports teams or have other outside experiences. Each day students can be given up to 4 points for their participation, meaning that each weekly participation grade is made up of 16 points as students typically have gym class 4 times a week. This is a great system. The only flaw that arises occurs when a student is absent. If the student has an excused absence, there’s no harm done to their grade. If a student has an unexcused absence, however, they get 0 points for the day and are not exempted from that day’s credit. This means that if a student is absent 1 day in the week the highest score they can get is a 12/16, if they’re absent 2 days it would be an 8/16, and so on. This is an issue.


There are plenty valid reasons that students may have to be absent without it being considered an excused absence to the school. There are instances where a student may be feeling under the weather, but may not need to go to the doctor and therefore cannot get a note excusing them for the day. For instance, I myself frequently experience migraines; I get them multiple times a year and can easily differentiate them between standard headaches based on symptoms like nausea and blurry vision. If I were to wake up with a migraine one day, it would be completely reasonable for me to stay home, but it would make no sense for me to go to a doctor. My doctor already knows I get migraines a few times a year and there is no medication I’d need to combat it. I know that the only things that work for me are ice packs, Tylenol, and sleeping it off before I get sick. If I were to stay home for this reason, I’d be losing credit in gym class for the week and my weekly grade would already go down to a 75%. 


This, of course, isn’t the only reason students may need to stay home without an excused absence. Many students may struggle with their mental health and a day off is sometimes necessary. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.9% of teenagers are affected by anxiety disorder and 17% are estimated to have depression. These are only the most common mental health conditions that students face, there are numerous others that affect teens. Students who deal with these conditions may need to just take a day off and focus on their mental health; they shouldn’t have to fear losing credit in gym class for doing so. No other class penalizes students in this way and gym class should be no different. We also have no idea what may be going on in the personal lives of students; things like dealing with family disputes, having to move, facing potential eviction, and other hardships in life all make for valid reasons that students may be absent without the day being officially excused by the school.


It is also important to note, that even without the valid reasons to be absent that I have already mentioned, it’s perfectly fair for students to take a day off just because they need it. If you happen to have great attendance all throughout the school year, there should be no reason that you cannot take off a few days in quarter four for personal reasons. In the real world, most professions do have days designated for these exact circumstances. Even teachers have a select number of “personal days”  (as they should) that are designed to allow them to take a day off for whatever reason they need it for. Whether you’re an employee or a student, you’re absolutely not a machine that perfection can be expected from; life happens and sometimes people just need a day off. 


Students have a certain amount of unexcused absences they are allowed to have in a year before losing credits for their classes; gym class should recognize these absences without penalizing students just like every other class at Somerset Berkley does. By no means am I saying that a student who misses 2 classes in a week should still receive 16/16 points just as the students who attended all classes do. Instead, these students should get scores of 8/8, which gives them credit for the two days they were present in school and active in class without penalizing them for the days they were absent. This current policy is unfair to students and expects them to not miss any days of class unless they are excused to do so by a doctor, which is unreasonable.