TRENTON, NJ -The Senate Education Committee has passed legislation sponsored by Senate Republicans Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington) to extend opportunities to earn varsity letters to high school students who participate in competitive activities other than athletics.

“A varsity letter has become a universal symbol for school pride and student achievement,” Bateman said. "Students who win science, debate or music competitions demonstrate just as much school spirit as those who score a game-winning goal. We need to show these kids that their victories are just as worthy of our praise and admiration.”

An identical bill was introduced in the state Assembly by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16th) last year.

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The Senate version provides that school districts may adopt a policy allowing high school students who participate in any school-sponsored, interscholastic extracurricular activities that include competitions to earn a varsity letter awarded by the district.

“Earning a varsity letter is one of the most recognizable ways that we honor our high school students,”  Allen said. “Academic and artistic achievements are just as important as athletic success. Many school districts already award varsity letters to those who excel in competitive activities outside of athletics, such as marching band. It is our hope that this legislation will encourage more school districts to do the same.”

The bill was amended in the Senate Committee to state that adopting this policy will be optional and the act cannot be construed as requiring school districts statewide to do so. Currently, each board of education may decide the sports and activities for which a student may be eligible to receive a varsity letter.

The bill was amended in the Senate Committee to state that the act is permissive and would not require schools to give out varsity letters to students who compete in extracurricular activities outside of athletics. Currently, each board of education may decide the sports and activities for which a student may be eligible to receive a varsity letter.