Credit: Mark Blakley
Madison Baute, a high school freshman from Agua Dulce, barrel racing on her horse, Dash. She had hoped to receive a physical education class exemption for the time she spends training.

High school rodeo riders who stood to be exempted from state physical education requirements have lost that possibility, at least for the 2015 legislative year, according to the California state senator who authored a bill to allow the exemptions.

At the same time, the state Senate on Monday passed a bill that would make cheerleading a high school sport and thereby eligible for at least partial high school physical education credit. The measure, Assembly Bill 949, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, now heads to the governor’s desk.

Rodeo and cheerleading proponents took two different paths in the legislature, with cheerleading advocates earning the blessing of state physical education instructors by agreeing to work with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the state governing body for high school sports, to meet the oversight, training and curriculum required of a school-sponsored interscholastic sport. Rodeo advocates went a more controversial route by seeking an exemption from physical education requirements without providing the structure and oversight of a school-sponsored sport.

“They could have gone the CIF route like cheerleading did,” said Betty Hennessy, president of the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a membership organization for physical education teachers.

Barrel racers, bull riders and goat tying contestants, among other rodeo competitors, would have been allowed under Senate Bill 138 to have their local school boards exempt them from attending physical education classes. The bill was authored by Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, who said a group of high school riders approached her at the 2014 state rodeo finals in Bishop and asked her to press for an exemption in recognition of their athleticism and practice time.

The bill passed the Senate after a hearing that brought a dozen high school rodeo competitors to the Capitol wearing cowboy hats, Western yoke-style shirts, jeans and boots, but failed to pass the Assembly Education Committee. In a common legislative move, Fuller has used the bill number to introduce a different proposal. Senate Bill 138 now has been rewritten as a seismic safety bill, said Tom Collins, spokesman for Fuller.

The death of the bill is a win for physical educators, who viewed the measure as counter to their efforts to provide quality physical education classes that follow content standards adopted in 2005 by the State Board of Education. While the California Education Code requires public schools to provide at least 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days in elementary schools, and 400 minutes in middle and high schools, physical education teachers have seen widespread noncompliance and have watched as military instructors have been authorized, albeit in a limited fashion, to teach physical education.

“Rodeo is a community sport,” said Betty Hennessy, president of an association of physical education teachers. “It’s not governed by the school and instructors are not hired by the school or monitored by the school.”

“We are pleased with the outcome of this,” Hennessy said. “We support state standards for all students in all subject areas, not only physical education.”

According to Hennessy, the bill ran into trouble because it clashed with a California Education Code specification that allows districts to grant physical education exemptions to students involved in a “school-sponsored interscholastic athletic program,” such as a school sports team. Interscholastic sports teams must comply with requirements that include training coaches in CPR, first aid and gender equity laws. In addition, school teams typically are regulated by the California Interscholastic Federation.

But for rare exceptions, California high school rodeo is neither school-sponsored nor interscholastic, Hennessy said. “Rodeo is a community sport,” Hennessy said. “It’s not governed by the school and instructors are not hired by the school or monitored by the school.”

High school rodeo competitors are organized by the California High School Rodeo Association, a nonprofit membership group, into nine geographic districts. At events hosted by the California association or the National High School Rodeo Association, riders compete against each other, not other school teams. According to the national association, 595 California high school students are registered rodeo competitors.

An analysis of the bill prepared by the Assembly Education Committee raised a slew of concerns. Most vividly, the analysis described scenarios of potential school district liability: What if a student at a barn 10 miles from school is thrown from a horse during a riding lesson for which the student is receiving a physical education exemption? What if a student is hurt while riding a horse at home unsupervised while receiving a physical education exemption?

Oakdale High School in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District – the only high school to send a representative to the Senate hearing to testify that it recognizes rodeo as a school sport – sought to defuse liability concerns. In a statement of support for the bill, Oakdale High said that the California and National High School Rodeo Associations provide liability protection to competitors at sanctioned events. In addition, student members of the California High School Rodeo Association are covered by medical insurance once their annual membership dues are paid, Oakdale said.

Voicing its opposition, the California Teachers Association said in a statement that rodeo is “a supplementary extracurricular physical activity beyond the core standards-based physical education curriculum.”

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  1. Gina Lanman 3 years ago3 years ago

    “Rodeo is a community sport,” said Betty Hennessy, president of an association of physical education teachers. “It’s not governed by the school and instructors are not hired by the school or monitored by the school.” I have a strange feeling it has to do with the teacher's unions or funding for school that keep them trying to control this. Rodeo/Western riding as cardiovascular and challenging at any other type of riding. The activities in Rodeos … Read More

    “Rodeo is a community sport,” said Betty Hennessy, president of an association of physical education teachers. “It’s not governed by the school and instructors are not hired by the school or monitored by the school.” I have a strange feeling it has to do with the teacher’s unions or funding for school that keep them trying to control this.

    Rodeo/Western riding as cardiovascular and challenging at any other type of riding. The activities in Rodeos vary from Roping to Bucking Broncos. If English “Hunters & Jumpers” qualify Western Rodeos should as well, it makes no sense! Cheerleading is a dedicated sport again there is no reason why it should not count as PE. I say when specialized sports are preferred by students the schools should allow each to excel and focus on what is important to them. There is nothing more boring than a basic PE class. I was thrilled to be able to go to the stables early and spend more time with my trainer in my younger years growing up in the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

    Replies

    • Al Stein 3 years ago3 years ago

      News Flash, Gina. Rodeo is not a sport……Kids should not be exempted from P.E. so that they can abuse animals.

    • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

      Gina: Well! If you are a child growing up in Palos Verdes you should be able to get, or do, anything you want and not get, or not do, anything you don't want. No whim should be denied. It just goes without saying. I'm surprised the public schools there don't understand that. Or maybe they do. No "boring" educational requirements for the horsey set. That's a motto to live by. Read More

      Gina:

      Well! If you are a child growing up in Palos Verdes you should be able to get, or do, anything you want and not get, or not do, anything you don’t want. No whim should be denied. It just goes without saying. I’m surprised the public schools there don’t understand that. Or maybe they do. No “boring” educational requirements for the horsey set. That’s a motto to live by.

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        Gary, that’s a seriously cheap shot, and I would say, unnecessarily dismissive of the benefits of being around horses and the opportunities to do so. I rode as a child as the daughter of a single parent working as a public school teacher.

        Some programs you might find interesting:
        http://www.comptonjrposse.org
        http://www.horsesinthehood.org
        http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/2014/05/27/local-students-defy-odds-to-ride-horses/9634975/

        There are programs like this, formal and informal, all over everywhere.

        We can write some pretty awful stereotypical stuff about cheerleading, too, but it’s not really relevant to the question at hand.

      • Gina Lanman 3 years ago3 years ago

        Gary- It has nothing to do with my upbringing or where I grew up. Nor which whim I have however it does have to do with opportunity to grow through a sport. Every sport enhances physical condition, feelings of being part of a community, and lessons in commitment. If you want to have narrow thoughts and bash me for where I grew up or thinking kids should have the … Read More

        Gary-

        It has nothing to do with my upbringing or where I grew up. Nor which whim I have however it does have to do with opportunity to grow through a sport. Every sport enhances physical condition, feelings of being part of a community, and lessons in commitment. If you want to have narrow thoughts and bash me for where I grew up or thinking kids should have the choice to focus on a talent instead of attending boring PE classes so be it. It is my opinion that PE classes are boring but others might love them which is fine. Being able to make a choice is best!

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      I am an equestrian and my daughter attends a rural Title 1 school. There are kids in our community participating in the high school rodeo circuit. But, despite the name, it's not really tied to the schools, it's just competition for kids of high school age. There's no question that equestrian sport is real sport, and as a kid, I was resentful and grumpy that my many long hours at my chosen sport did not exempt … Read More

      I am an equestrian and my daughter attends a rural Title 1 school. There are kids in our community participating in the high school rodeo circuit. But, despite the name, it’s not really tied to the schools, it’s just competition for kids of high school age.

      There’s no question that equestrian sport is real sport, and as a kid, I was resentful and grumpy that my many long hours at my chosen sport did not exempt me from my quite awful HS PE options. However, the HS rodeo program isn’t really a program – each kid individually seeks out coaching (or, um, doesn’t) and puts whatever time he/she wants into it. As an independent study option it could work, but generally exempting a kid because she sometimes goes to competitions (how often?) supported by a particular association doesn’t make sense.

  2. SD Parent 3 years ago3 years ago

    For anyone who does cheerleading, they can tell you it's definitely a physical workout like many CIF sports. However, making an except for cheerleading doesn't address the bigger picture of recognizing interscholastic sports as PE in all school districts. In our district, whether or not your school-affiliated sport qualifies as PE credit is entirely dependent on who the coach is and in some cases what time of day it is taught. If the sport … Read More

    For anyone who does cheerleading, they can tell you it’s definitely a physical workout like many CIF sports. However, making an except for cheerleading doesn’t address the bigger picture of recognizing interscholastic sports as PE in all school districts.

    In our district, whether or not your school-affiliated sport qualifies as PE credit is entirely dependent on who the coach is and in some cases what time of day it is taught. If the sport is coached by a certificated employee (e.g. teacher, counselor, nurse), then it counts for PE. But if it’s coached by someone who isn’t certificated in the district, then it’s after school and doesn’t count for PE. These are CIF interscholastic sports like swimming, cross country, track and field–activities that require far more hours of strenuous exercise than in a typical PE class. If we’re going to make an exception for cheerleading, then at a minimum we should be counting other interscholastic sports and make it clear to all school districts that these count for PE.

    Guess maybe Lorena Gonzalez was never on an after school high school athletic team…

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      I think, but cannot confirm, that what SD Parent is saying s/he experiences in terms of school sports and PE credit is district policy rather than state policy. It is my understanding at our high school that all sports are substitutable regardless of who coaches.

      While I can see the rationale around such a policy, I would think it was likely you’d inadvertently hit gender equity issues if the credentialed coaches aren’t distributed evenly among girls’ and boys’ teams.

  3. Ryan 3 years ago3 years ago

    Can you give me a W!? Give me a T! Give me an F!

  4. Ernie Jay 3 years ago3 years ago

    Hooray! Hooray! The wicked bill is dead! What’s NOT discussed at all the puny amount of insurance that the California and National High School Rodeo Associations claim is provided in liability protection to competitors at sanctioned events. Hub? What about the “practicing” in remote, possibly unsafe arenas? Which policy kicks in there in the event of an injury that no one witnesses? This so-called liability protection is akin … Read More

    Hooray! Hooray! The wicked bill is dead! What’s NOT discussed at all the puny amount of insurance that the California and National High School Rodeo Associations claim is provided in liability protection to competitors at sanctioned events. Hub? What about the “practicing” in remote, possibly unsafe arenas? Which policy kicks in there in the event of an injury that no one witnesses? This so-called liability protection is akin to the minimum CA auto insurance that licensed drivers are required to carry—absolutely meaningless and inadequate to cover event the smallest of damages and injuries. So guess who would be the deep pockets? CA TAXPAYERS!
    Some elected officials simply can never be trusted. Some are pawns of big corporations; others are pawns of animal-abusing event promoters. These types of legislators have no interest in public benefit—rather, they care only about self-serving special interests. Even more audacious, this opportunistic author of what-should-be dead legislation has immediately “amended” her rodeo-promotion bill to introduce most likely another disaster-waiting to happen—wasting legislative time. The rules are that the deadline to introduce new legislation passed long ago, but these disgraceful and shameful legislators don’t believe the rules apply to them.

    Replies

    • Gina Lanman 3 years ago3 years ago

      Hi Ernie, When PE exemption is granted one is to have a certain amount of training hours and competition hours each to be monitored by the Athletic Dept. Each event the student enters is by the choice of the athlete. For instance if my daughter played tennis she would enter USTA tennis tourneys or local club events. Each event and venue has their own insurance not having anything to do with … Read More

      Hi Ernie,

      When PE exemption is granted one is to have a certain amount of training hours and competition hours each to be monitored by the Athletic Dept. Each event the student enters is by the choice of the athlete. For instance if my daughter played tennis she would enter USTA tennis tourneys or local club events. Each event and venue has their own insurance not having anything to do with the school. Same would be go for entering a horse show or a Rodeo. There is no need for the State of California to be concerned that they are not included in the teaching, coaching or facilitating such events. Nor do they need to worry if they are competing with other students. Divisions and classes are decided by the individual event coordinator or specific organizations.

    • Parent 3 years ago3 years ago

      Straw man argument

  5. Eric Mills 3 years ago3 years ago

    Good move on the part of the legislature. Approval of this bill would have indicated tacit approval of animal abuse. Nowhere do I see a mention of the fact that rodeo is condemned by every major animal welfare organization in the country, due to its inherent cruelty, and for the negative message it sends to impressionable young children about the proper treatment of animals. Just imagine the public outcry if rodeo cowboys abuse pet … Read More

    Good move on the part of the legislature. Approval of this bill would have indicated tacit approval of animal abuse.

    Nowhere do I see a mention of the fact that rodeo is condemned by every major animal welfare organization in the country, due to its inherent cruelty, and for the negative message it sends to impressionable young children about the proper treatment of animals. Just imagine the public outcry if rodeo cowboys abuse pet dogs the way they do the roping calves–and mere BABIES, yet. Calf roping was never practiced as a timed event on a working ranch.

    Should note, too, that the bill’s author, Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) is also the author of Senate Concurrent Resolution 15 (SCR 15), the “National Day of the Cowboy.” This Resolution is little more than a transparent free promo for rodeo. Just take a look at the organizations touted in the bill: the PRCA, bullriders, barrel racers, even a couple of horsemen’s groups which shoot guns from horseback…..

    SCR 15 is now on the Assembly floor for a final vote. Ask your Assemblymember for a resounding NO! vote, and urge him/her to speak out against this unfortunate legislation. (If in doubt as to who your Assemblymember is, see the “Government” pages in the front of your local telephone book.)

    Email pattern for all Assemblymembers — assemblymember.lastname@assembly.ca.gov

    x
    Eric Mills, coordinator
    ACTION FOR ANIMALS
    Oakland

  6. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    And just to forestall the inevitable, having been associated both with equestrian and cheerleading in various capacities, the athletic component to both is considerable when done right, just as more traditional "sports." I also respect that what is PE has substantially upgraded in terms of curriculum and rigor and pedagogy since I was a student. A good PE teacher brings quite a bit to a student's education. I am not sure that community-acquired coaches for any … Read More

    And just to forestall the inevitable, having been associated both with equestrian and cheerleading in various capacities, the athletic component to both is considerable when done right, just as more traditional “sports.”

    I also respect that what is PE has substantially upgraded in terms of curriculum and rigor and pedagogy since I was a student. A good PE teacher brings quite a bit to a student’s education. I am not sure that community-acquired coaches for any sport have the training we’d like to see – not that they can’t, only that IME it seems to be pretty uneven, ranging from really skilled and very talented coaches to warm bodies.

  7. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    IIRC, there is or was a way for kids training in elite sports - for example, figure skating or gymnastics - to get individual exemptions from physical education. Is that still true? If so, I would suggest that is the path the HS rodeo students should follow (along with equestrian athletes in other disciplines). In general, I'd say that rodeo in particular and equestrian in general are not well suited to the CIF model, and that … Read More

    IIRC, there is or was a way for kids training in elite sports – for example, figure skating or gymnastics – to get individual exemptions from physical education. Is that still true? If so, I would suggest that is the path the HS rodeo students should follow (along with equestrian athletes in other disciplines).

    In general, I’d say that rodeo in particular and equestrian in general are not well suited to the CIF model, and that they’re better off without it.

    Replies

    • Jane Meredith Adams 3 years ago3 years ago

      Hi El. You're right. It's independent study. Applying for independent study in PE would be the same process a student would follow to do independent study in any other subject area. Here's the link to the information -- you'd need to scroll down a bit to get to "Independent Study." http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/pe/physeducfaqs.asp#PE Some have suggested that would be a route for rodeo riders to follow. Jane Read More

      Hi El.
      You’re right. It’s independent study. Applying for independent study in PE would be the same process a student would follow to do independent study in any other subject area. Here’s the link to the information — you’d need to scroll down a bit to get to “Independent Study.” http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/pe/physeducfaqs.asp#PE Some have suggested that would be a route for rodeo riders to follow.
      Jane

  8. Parent 3 years ago3 years ago

    "The death of the bill is a win for physical educators..." This is a great article. It highlights the Union position that they "own" your child and your's children's educational minutes. They want the Physical Ed minutes to fund a forced dues paying CTA member, and not an outside organization. They are not about to give up your child to an outside organization. Read More

    “The death of the bill is a win for physical educators…”

    This is a great article. It highlights the Union position that they “own” your child and your’s children’s educational minutes.

    They want the Physical Ed minutes to fund a forced dues paying CTA member, and not an outside organization.

    They are not about to give up your child to an outside organization.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

      Parent: You can be sure that the science teachers of CA, as well as their union representatives, would not support letting kids get independent study credit or "exemptions" from science classes in order to attend Sunday School classes, or after school classes, where creationism is the "curriculum." PE has state standards that are just as relevant and the state's Next Generation Science standards. What the teachers "own" is the professional obligation to see that … Read More

      Parent:

      You can be sure that the science teachers of CA, as well as their union representatives, would not support letting kids get independent study credit or “exemptions” from science classes in order to attend Sunday School classes, or after school classes, where creationism is the “curriculum.” PE has state standards that are just as relevant and the state’s Next Generation Science standards. What the teachers “own” is the professional obligation to see that a student gets an education. When they speak in a collective voice that may be heard as a coming from their content area organization (see above) or their union. What you do after school is recreational, whether it’s Little League, organized soccer, or rodeo. If the child is getting “instruction” in some religion’s creation myths, that is a matter for the family. In neither the recreation nor the family faith-based activity is there reason under the State’s Education Code to give credit for education.

  9. Kevin Shephard 3 years ago3 years ago

    Substitutes for physical education should only be considered if it meets the same standards and learning outcomes.

    Learn about the importance of quality physical education in the free documentary No Excuses! which follows a transformation project at one school in Harlem: http://www.supportrealteachers.org/no-excuses-a-film-about-qpe1.html