Exemption Exceptions


Hannah Hutchins and Olivia Griffith

Junior and senior years: an exciting time full of tons of new privileges, one of which, for some, is having the opportunity to exempt from gym class. However, the qualifications are often unclear to students.

The student handbook says that while their sport is in session, any junior or senior athlete on a varsity or junior varsity team is allowed to be excused from gym. However, students must fulfill certain requirements in order to qualify for exemptions: those who have never failed physical education in previous semesters, who are currently holding a “C” or better in the class, who are enrolled in six academic and credit-bearing courses, and those participating in an Illinois High School Association-sanctioned sport are eligible for exemptions.

The state says that any junior or senior involved in an interscholastic activity is allowed to exempt from their gym class, according to Mr. Briant Kelly, the athletic director of LHS.

In place of gym, students are given a study hall and have to remain there all period, every day. They also have to appear at every practice and competition, meet, or game.

Once the sport is over, the exemption is also over and the athlete must return to P.E.

If a student is taking P.E. for a grade, he or she has to report for final exams. Also, if they are a winter athlete, they must report to gym the first day of second semester, but can return to exemptions the following day.

If a student doesn’t comply with all of these regulations, they risk losing future exemption privileges.

However, there are some exceptions with this system. Some sports, for example, hockey, are not able to exempt  because they do not qualify as a “sport” by the high school’s definition.

Senior Marissa Garapolo, who has played hockey for Lake Forest High School’s varsity team since her sophomore year, is unable to exempt from her P.E. classes.

“I strongly believe that all hockey players should be exempt from gym,” Garapolo said. “I feel that it is unfair to be considered a club, when a lot of the surrounding high schools schools recognize hockey as a sport.”

Since Libertyville does not have a hockey team of its own, LHS, Vernon Hills High School, and Lake Forest High School girls are all on one team through Lake Forest High School. Even though the boy’s hockey team is composed of solely LHS and VHHS students, they follow the same procedures. While Garapolo does receive a varsity letter for her commitment to the sport, she is unable to exempt from gym and also does not receive recognition at the seasonal sports assemblies.

Alex Tam, a sophomore on varsity cross country and varsity track, is also unable to participate in this privilege. This is because he is an underclassman; but as a two-year varsity runner, Tam feels that he should be able to exempt from gym.

“I believe that any student should be able to exempt from gym because if they participate in a varsity sport, such as cross country, they must be getting enough exercise,” Tam said. “In fact, in most varsity sports, athletes are getting much more physical activity than they would get from gym alone.”

However, another LHS athlete, Brian Lemay, is able to exempt from P.E. classes despite his sport’s lack of status as an IHSA sport. Lemay is on the school’s fencing team, the Thundercats, which is considered a club at LHS.

“Fencing is not technically a high school sport, so our athletes are not exempt from the gym requirement. The only exception is in special cases like Brian Lemay,” said Lemay’s coach and team manager, Mr. Rich Jackim.

Lemay is able to exempt because of his involvement with fencing on a national level rather than his involvement with the Thundercats. While the fencing team at LHS is unable to exempt from gym, they, like hockey, do receive varsity letters.

While the school has some requirements, individual coaches also have strong opinions on athletic exemptions.

Varsity swim team coach Mr. Michael Cunningham believes that unless you are in a varsity sport, physical education is an important part of your day.

“Students on a varsity sport are expected to perform at a higher level. Of course if they aren’t working hard, I make them complete gym. But they need a study hall so they can complete their work so they don’t miss practice,” said Mr. Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham believes that gym is a necessary class for students to participate in so they aren’t staring at a teacher or screen all day. It helps them to focus more in class.

Like Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Kelly also believes that gym is necessary in teenagers’ lives: “I think PE’s important. I just think [the exemption is] a nice privilege for juniors and seniors who are taking a heavier class load with more Honors and AP classes.”