Catawba County mother pushes to expand middle school sports
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mandi Giannini is a mother of four who moved from Charlotte to Hickory during the pandemic. At that time, she noticed her outgoing son wasn’t making many friends. As a solution, she thought about putting him in school sports. It’s then she realized her district didn’t allow 6th graders to participate.
“Had he been able to play those spring sports he would have been exposed to more kids and more opportunities and I think it would have been a lot easier for him,” Mandi said.
Two years later, Mandi has a new sixth grader, but again, he gets none of the physical or mental benefits sports offer.
“Those are athletes that aren’t able to be included or be part of a team,” Mandi said.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders may play in middle school athletics by law, if they keep their grades up. The only exception is that 6th grade can’t play contact sports out of a safety issue, with some 8th graders being significantly larger than 6th graders.
“They could try a new sport, they could learn a new skill, they could be part of a family, and have a coach that cares about them,” Mandi said.
WBTV checked with neighboring districts: CMS also does not allow 6th graders to play in school, a decision made by the CMS school board. Gaston, Union, and Iredell-Statesville schools do allow them to participate.
Gianni is asking the Catawba County school board to follow suit.
Because of her pushing, it is now on the agenda for a meeting in January.
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