Unified Sports looking to letter

participants persuade district to look into changing lettering requirements


Emily Kruse

juniors Alan Sanders and Bryce Smith celebrate after making a basket in the Unified Sports scrimmage at Pack the House on Nov. 19. Unified Sports is one of the activities featured in Pack the House that currently cannot receive a letter. Students involved have been advocating for their lettering privileges.

By Zora Lotton-Barker, Staff Writer

More USD 497 students may get the opportunity to letter after Unified Sports athletes advocated for a change to current district practice. Currently, students can only letter in activities sponsored by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, which includes sports and music groups as well as some other activities like debate and scholars bowl. Left out are students active in programs such as Unified Sports, journalism and art.

“We’re putting just as much time, effort, and thought into our photographs as the athlete’s are,” said photo portfolio student Olivia Percich said. “We’re even paying in order to enter competitions, and we’re working just as hard as they are. It’s kind of frustrating for us just because we are really passionate about it too, and no one really notices it.”

The latest push to change district practice came from Unified Sports, which is a collaborative club between Lawrence High and Special Olympics. Athletes in the inclusive sports program practice and compete in soccer and basketball. After a long battle for equitability in the district, teacher and Unified Sports sponsor Susan Micka and her students were contacted in January about being part of a process to discuss changes by associate superintendent Anna Stubblefield.

The first meeting is planned for later this month. Micka said the committee will create standards for varsity levels of participation in activities, teams, academics and organizations in which students could be recognized with a letter regardless of if the activities are part of KSHSAA.

The discussions came after Micka and her students wouldn’t take no for an answer. When Micka asked administrators to see the policy, she was told it was a “policy of word.”

“When they told me that I translated that to mean tradition,” she said. “ No one has written it or reviewed it, no one has supported it, somewhere along the lines some kind of administrator said, ‘This is the way we’re going to do this,’ and that’s what they’ve done ever since.”

Micka’s students have told her what a letter represents.

“When they wear their letter jackets out, it’s not about what they’ve earned, but it’s also a symbol of what this school supports, and they don’t like wearing a letter jacket that says my school only supports athletics,” she said.

Micka was not the first teacher to reach out to the district about changing the lettering practice. Photo teacher Angelia Perkins has been trying for several years.

Perkins found that coaches and teachers set their own requirements for lettering. For some programs students earn points by taking outside lessons, going to competitions or volunteering at events. For sports like wrestling and basketball, the maximum requirement for a student athlete to letter is to have been on said team for three years and to show up to games.

Perkins said her requirements would likely demanded students not only achieve academic excellence in their photography class but also take outside classes, volunteer, enter competitions and be submitted into exhibits. The hard work of her most dedicated students should be recognized, she said.

“If you’re not in it there’s no way to know the work that goes into it,” Perkins said. “It would be nice if the school, the administration, and in the arts community, that they could actually see their work as worth something.”