HILLSBOROUGH: Varsity letters for chess? Why not, says assemblyman 


Students can earn a varsity letter for football, lacrosse or track.
Why not chess, debate or robotics? asks Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli.
The legislator from Hillsborough has long advocated more recognition of non-sport extracurricular activities. He’s usually in attendance at area robotics competitions, for instance, and has come to the Hillsborough Board of Education to ask that the school budget include some money to help fund the activities.
Now, the Hillsborough resident has introduced legislation that would lead to more varsity letters at New Jersey high schools. The bill (A3879) would mandate school districts with high school grades to establish criteria for awarding varsity letters for participating in all extracurricular activities that include competitions with students from other schools.
“There is a long tradition of high schools awarding athletes with varsity letters. At many schools, marching band and jazz band members also earn letters. Why stop there?” asked Mr. Ciattarelli, a Republican. “There are other competitive activities that require the same level of commitment, dedication, teamwork and school pride. Because varsity letters symbolize sacrifice and accomplishment, they should not be limited to mostly athletes in traditional sports.”
Under Mr. Ciattarelli’s bill, students will be eligible to earn varsity letters for participating in, for example, robotics, debate teams, chess clubs and any other school-sanctioned activity that competes with other high schools.
“Awarding a varsity letter to everyone who distinguishes themselves and their high school in interscholastic competitions is only fair and right,” said Mr. Ciattarelli.
In March 2014 Mr. Ciattarelli spoke at a school board meeting and supplied information lobbying for school budget dollars for the RoboRaiders Team 75 robotics organization.
Other school districts, like Bridgewater-Raritan, Montgomery and Hunterdon Central, have said budgeting funds “is perfectly appropriate, if not necessary, use of taxpayer dollars,“ he said.
Ultimately, the school board found a way to designate the robotics team activity in a way to justify paying for registration fees at meetings and competitions, a portion of in-state travel costs and faculty advisers.