‘It seems unfair to us’

Hillsborough Board of Education to discuss sports fees

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A request to waive sports fees has sparked an active discussion among the Sports Fees Committee of the Hillsborough Board of Education.

That is what Board President Paul Marini relayed after board members heard from Carlin Dunne, coach of the unified track and field team and a parent of a special needs child in the district, at a meeting on Feb. 12.

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“Without partners, the unified sports program at Hillsborough High School would not exist,” Dunne said requesting the $100 sports fee to be waived for students, who volunteer their time as partners.

“A unified sports program can be found in select schools across New Jersey, which aims to unite students with physical and/or cognitive disabilities through competition, team comradery and a shared loved of physical activity.

“The general education students in this program are known as partners and the special education students are known as athletes.”

Until this year, the $100 sports fee had been waived for partners who volunteer their time for this program, Dunne noted.

“We are asking the board to consider waiving the athletic fee for unified sports partners going forward.”

In unified programs, there are ratios that need to be respected that has been set forth by Special Olympics, the state and NJSIAA.

“All three of the unified programs have different ratios that need to be met, but the premise remains the same … if we don’t meet these ratios of general education and special education students, we can’t participate,” Dunne said.

“Without partners, we don’t meet the ratios ultimately robbing our special education students of opportunities that they are too often unable to attain. So implementing this fee for partners for our programs, they ultimately will not survive.”

Partners help model appropriate social behaviors, help athletes make friends and assist coaches and support staff at practices and competitions.

“This is huge because our numbers have been rising in recent years like crazy,” Dunne said. “Partners help our students build confidence. Seeing our partners at the high school go out of their way to make the connections with these students in the hallways, it’s really so special to see.

“We have our class president or varsity athletes and other students going above and beyond to go out of their way to connect with these students and make them feel special, make them feel as part of something that they typically don’t feel part of. They also earn varsity letters and varsity jackets, which makes them feel just like everybody else.”

Dunne added partners have traveled to away games and meets taking away from their personal time at part time jobs and finishing up school work just to support their friends and teammates.

“A unified team is like no other and we want to continue drawing people,” Dunne said. “Without our partners, this program does not exist.

“All we do is encourage our children to be good people. Now we have those taking the leap to volunteer and it feels like they are being punished for doing so. We are asking people volunteering to pay a $100 fee. It seems unfair for us.”

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