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updated: 3/20/2014 4:54 AM

Concussion policy OK sparks academics discussion in Dist. 203

Newly adopted guidelines in line with IHSA, but board member says rules on when to return full academic status should be included

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A policy that governs when student-athletes who suffer concussions can return to practice and play is officially on the books in Naperville Unit District 203.

As specified in Illinois High School Association guidelines, students who suffer a concussion during a game cannot return to that game unless cleared by a certified athletic trainer or a doctor. If a student is not cleared to return to the game, he or she will not be able to practice or play until receiving written permission from a doctor.

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The policy for returning from a concussion applies to both high school and junior high athletes in District 203, said Bob Ross, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

Administrators said the district already follows these guidelines but needed to adopt the policy formally to follow state statute.

Before board members approved the policy Monday, administrators made one change extending the scope of students covered by its regulations. Instead of applying only to students who suffer concussions during IHSA-sanctioned interscholastic sports, the policy also covers students participating in school-sponsored clubs such as the boys and girls lacrosse clubs at Naperville Central and North high schools.

"We have student-athletes participating in activities that are not IHSA sanctioned," Deputy Superintendent Kaine Osburn said. "But they're engaging in activities that can occasionally result in concussions."

Despite the extension to include club athletes, board member Suzyn Price said she still thinks a policy should be created to govern the academic side of returning to full participation in school after a concussion.

When the board first discussed the policy earlier this month, Price said her daughter recently had suffered a concussion, after which she encountered different responses from teachers about assessments and coordination of makeup assignments.

Osburn said procedures already followed by nurses and athletic trainers help determine when students who suffer concussions are ready to begin taking tests and participating in class.

If a concussion occurs during a game or practice at which a trainer is present, Osburn said the trainer notifies the nurse at the student's school, who then follows up with the student's doctor about proper cognitive rest or reduced levels of stimulation and coordinates accordingly with teachers.

If a concussion occurs outside school-sponsored sports or when a trainer is not on site, the procedures still are followed if the student notifies the nurse of the injury.

Price said Monday that chronic illnesses and disabilities are addressed in district policy, but injuries such as concussions that temporarily diminish cognitive function and the ability to participate in academics are not covered. She asked administrators to consider creating a new policy to fill the void, especially as it relates to how and when students will return to academic activities such as taking tests.

"Policies provide recourse and guidelines for families," Price said. "If we offer families and students and teachers a guideline about how that's supposed to work, it gives everyone clear instructions."

Superintendent Dan Bridges said Price's request was separate from the concussion policy, which was approved unanimously Monday night. He said the district will seek legal counsel and review whether such a policy should be created.

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