General Question

BarnacleBill's avatar

Is access to high school extracurricular activities discriminatory in your community?

Asked by BarnacleBill (16073points) August 24th, 2010

Participation in extracurricular activities often come with hidden constraints that make participation impossible for students who need extracurricular activities the most. For example, participation in cheerleading may require attendance at several summer cheerleading camps, purchasing of multiple uniforms, and attendance at cheerleading competitions in other states, requiring a cash outlay of $2,000 – $3,000 a year. Football players may be required to practice during the summer, precluding working, and practice extends late into the afternoon, requiring students who live a distance away from school to take public transportation instead of the school bus, often with commutes of 1–2 hours in order to get home. Likewise with play or band practice after school. Timing and cash outlay in order to participate often precludes students who live outside the immediate school area from participating.

Do the high schools in your area make it easy for economically disadvantaged students to participate in activities, or is it a predominently middle to upper-middle class thing?

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18 Answers

tedd's avatar

I don’t think thats so much a discrimanatory practice as it is an issue with schools not having enough money. The reason cheerleaders have to buy their uniforms is because the school doesn’t have the budget. Heck in many cases they’re lucky to have the budget for the coach, let alone uniforms.

Long football practices is just what it is. If you want to have a good football team, you practice a lot. I highly doubt any attention was paid into students having to take public transport rather than schools transport (especially since school transport doesn’t run for most schools during summer practices). And if your commute to and from school takes 1–2 hours, then its your own damn fault because you should be going to school somewhere way closer.

In my own experience needing to pay for uniforms, instruments, etc, or having to organize rides home after practice, rehearsal, etc, did not restrict any of the lower class people. Heck in the case of athletics the people who were from poorer families tended to be the better athletes (maybe they grew up with nothing else to do than run around outside or something, thats a different question).

Besides, theres NO WAY schools could afford to pay for all of that stuff. Most of them barely make budget with ANY extra-curriculars.

Seek's avatar

I was unable to participate in extracurriculars due to the cost involved, and the distance away from the school.

Yes, the closest school was over a 45 minute drive away. No, my parents were not willing to drive me, when I could take the school bus for free, and they wouldn’t have to do a damned thing. Who cares if I wanted to join cross-country?

Just to try out for a sport required getting a physical. That’s $55 right there. (I know now there are many places offering lower-cost sports physicals, but that’s what it would have cost me). Then the “participation fee” of $40. I never got so far as to know what actually being on a team cost.
Joining band meant buying or renting an instrument, getting the uniform, paying for uniform dry-cleaning, etc. Not happening.

Just another way to hand out scholarships to kids who probably didn’t need them anyway.

MissAusten's avatar

I’ve tried looking into this for our town, but couldn’t find any information on the high school’s website about fees to participate in various activities. My oldest is in lower middle school (5th and 6th grade) and the only fees we pay are for the PTO ($15) and sometimes a small amount for a field trip (usually less than $20). The school has an intramural sports program, which costs $25 plus the cost of any equipment. When my daughter played field hockey, she had to have cleats, shin guards, and a mouth guard. Those things cost about $40 if I remember correctly. They played once a week after school, and all transportation had to be provided by parents. So, it wasn’t a huge cost at all compared to what some people pay for their kids to participate in extracurricular activities.

@tedd is correct, however, in that the majority of schools just can’t afford to take on all of the expenses related to sports or other activities. I have friends in other states whose kids want to be in show choir but can’t afford the hundreds of dollars it takes to participate. They hold fundraisers to try to offset the cost, but it is still high. Now many of those schools are considering requiring students to buy laptops, something not everyone can afford. The schools here supply mobile laptop labs for use during school hours, but then again, our taxes are ridiculous.

I know that the schools here will waive fees for activities for students who are on the free or reduced price lunch program. I don’t know what level of income qualifies for free lunches, but I’d imagine there’s quite a gap between needing the free lunch and being able to afford expensive school activities. I’m sure there are families that can buy school lunch but still can’t shell out hundreds of dollars for football or show choir. I have a friend whose daughter is in high school here, and I’ll try to remember to ask her about fees to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.

@Seek_Kolinahr My kids are required to have physicals for school even if they aren’t participating in sports. The schools already have them on file, so the medical form for sports just asks for contact information, emergency contacts, allergies, etc.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You could try working to earn what money you need to participate. Just a thought.

Seek's avatar


That works out really well for the 13 and 14 year old high school freshmen. Then, if they wait until they’re 16, the Varsity teams have already chosen their participants – the ones grandfathered in from JV.

MaryW's avatar

Yes in your context it is discriminatory however all of life seems to depend on money now. Many people must be sponsored or mentored into their sport or chosen occupation. Do I thnk it is excessive. Yes. But determined people find a way to beat it… even that leaves out those who do not have a way or realize they can excel. Again life has always been that way and now even more “classes” are dependant on money or lack of.
Personally I do believe extracurricular activities are good but I believe working toward a job and working community service or for $ with a mentor is more beneficial.

Seek's avatar

@MaryW Community service doesn’t pay for college. Neither do minimum wage high school jobs for 15 hours a week.

MaryW's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr It can indeed pay for college and almost everyone I know with money has started at a minimum wage job. You must be alert and work hard and seek mentors.

Seek's avatar

A minimum wage job at 15 hours a week is less than 6,000 a year. Now, add in the kid’s car, gas, and insurance, taxes, Social Security… that doesn’t leave much for tuition and textbooks, even if he saves every penny he makes in high school. Now, if that kid wants to use that money to take part in extracurriculars, he has a really good shot at losing his job due to the participation requirements of that activity. Why hire a football player who needs every Thursday night off and can only work after 6:00, when there’s another kid who has the whole afternoon free every day?

There are two ways to get a scholarship – impeccable grades, and extracurricular activities – particularly sports. The world isn’t exactly full of kindhearted benefactors just waiting to dole out $25,000 a year for a college education.

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mandybookworm's avatar

My highschool required you to get a student card in order to participate in extra curriculars. They also required a student activity fee that could be from 5 to 50$. However if that was not payable they had a program that would pay for the cost of the student activity fee. Uniforms and other things were usually given out or “rented” to the students while they were on the team. So no, It was not hard for disadvantaged kids to participate. However I noticed that a lot of kids coming from poor homes generally didn’t participate anyway. Not all of them, just most of them.

john65pennington's avatar

I understand your point of discrimination and i agree, somewhat. i cannot truly understand this situation you have described, mainly because back in the 60s, we did not have these obstacles to face. everything was furnished including, band uniform, instrument, football equipment and so on. we also did not have strange fees to pay, like for a physical. my high school had one of the best football teams in America, also with the first Marching 100 band members in the nation. we did not have to pay for the “extras” then, but our parents would have if asked. i guess i was just born at the right time and the right place.

tedd's avatar

@john65pennington The problem is that since you were in high school either school funding has gone down, or costs have gone up, or a combination. Schools are left without enough money and they obviously choose to prioritize the actual education part of their curriculum rather than sports and music and other extra-curriculars. The only way most schools can afford to have a football team, band, musicals, etc, etc at all is by having students and their parents offset the costs by paying for some of the required supplies.

This has the unfortunate side effect of making it more difficult for the less financially stable students to participate, even though they may be the most in need of extra-curriculars to keep them away from crime/drugs/what-have-you.

BarnacleBill's avatar

When I graduated from high school in 1975, everyone in my community went to a high school they could walk to. Unless you lived more than 2 miles away, there was no bus. You walked it. My sister graduated 4 years after me, and she was bussed to an inner city school, 8 miles away. There was no bus. She was only able to participate in after school activities because my mother worked a mile away from school, and she would walk to the office and wait for my mother.

Two of my daughter’s friends were bussed to a school 4 miles from my house. This school is 15 miles from one student’s home, and 8 miles from the other’s. In order to play football, one boy would hide in the school and sleep there so he could stay for practice. Another would walk the 4 miles to my house after band practice and hope that I would either be able to give him a ride home, or let him stay with us overnight, so he could walk to school the next morning. (The school bus would not let students on who didn’t live in the neighborhood, and public transportation cost $1.50, which the kids never had.) I spent 4 years driving/feeding/tutoring young men who weren’t mine. I showed up for teacher conferences because the parents worked nights. (It’s hard getting off for a school conference if you work hourly maintenance jobs). For one of them, it did pay off, and he has a scholarship for college based on taking IB classes, playing the trumpet, and theater. The extracurriculars got him a job. Very few teens can land any sort of job without some sort of experience in showing up on time.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think I was in the last generation of students who had the necessary equipment/uniforms supplied for extracurriculars, or that weren’t outrageously expensive. In grade school, I remember the violin I used for my lessons was rented from the school for $5 a week.

If I had had to pay for all the accoutrements in high school, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in anything, as all the money I made in those years went to help pay for my household’s current expenses. As it was, I had to buy my own cleats for soccer and running shoes for track.

Zyx's avatar

I don’t have anything good to say about any school.

Saun's avatar

Yes, our school is broke. The end. No money. We had to cut like a zillion classes this year because our school could not support them anymore. (Oh my beloved Studio I wanted help with my portfolio. ;_;) As for sports, I’m I bit bad, but if I had to guess? Yes. They’d be expensive. Varsity Jackets? What are they, $300.00? Tell me that’s not rediculus. I could probably get a jacket of better material for $50.00. It just makes me angry – I would like to be able to get one for my third year in choir, but NO. (They hand out letters like wellfare here, BUT CERTAINLY NOT JACKETS.) Anyway. That’s all I know, but I’m pretty sure if the jackets are that bad, our school sports is gonna be rediculus too. .. I don’t know about $3000 a year. That’s somewhat scary. I mean, there’s the Art Club’s trip to Paris, and the Japanese Culture Club’s trip to Japan, which are extremely costly, but I wouldn’t say just the sports are. .. But I’ve never been a sportsy person.

diavolobella's avatar

I have to say I do feel that high school extracurricular activities are discriminatory, due to the situation in which I currently find myself. My daughter wanted to take choir class and the choir teacher thought she had talent and placed her in an advanced choir – without telling me or my daughter that advanced choir was essentially an extracurricular activity. I was given no advance warning of the costs involved and they keep on coming. $10 class fee, $52 for tap dance lessons after school (required), $34 for tap shoes, and a $135 costume fee. The only way to fund this if you can’t pay out-of-pocket is through fundraisers. Unfortunately, I have no extended family in the area and I have already hit up my co-workers the one and only time I can. Now the teacher has announced that my child needs black dress pants, a white blouse, black jazz shoes and a vest for the day after tomorrow. I can’t afford to buy these items right now. The kicker is that the teacher has also announced that the competition they will participate in this year is going to be at Walt Disney World and it will cost $700 per student. This is a public high school. My daughter is not old enough to drive or have a job and the choir requires so much after school and nighttime rehearsal that she couldn’t work and participate if she was even able to obtain employment.

Sadly, I have to go home today and tell my daughter that she has to drop out of this activity and just be in the regular choir class. The regular choir class does NOTHING. No performances, no anything. So, it is a classic situation of the haves and the have-nots and that is the very nature of discrimination.

There is no reason why a high school choir should require this much money to participate. What happened to the choir wearing choir robes from year to year or making costumes instead of buying $135 dresses from a catalog. I can see expending some money for my daughter’s participation, but in order to be in the choir in this school you have to have a very large disposable income.

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