The mother of a 13-year-old middle school student is questioning why her son's sexual maturity should be a factor in determining whether he can play on the high school golf team.
The mother contacted CNY Central's Jim Kenyon to look into a requirement by the State Education Department that forces students to undergo physical examinations which gauge sexual maturity even for non-contact sports.
She asked that we not reveal her identity to protect her son from embarrassment. "Why is this necessary and who would have access to this information?" she asked.
The mother says she recently went to the office of the physical education director at a local school district to pick up the application for her son to play on the high school golf team. She tells Kenyon that she was given forms which included a "maturation packet" and was told that her son "must be a level three" in order to qualify.
She says she was surprised to see that her son's doctor would be required to inspect her son's genitals and grade his sexual maturity on the "Tanner Scale." (Note: link contains images that may be considered 'graphic'). The Tanner Scale consists of five levels of maturity based on the development of a boy's penis and testicles as well as pubic hair. In girls, the Tanner Scale also places the child on one of five levels based on breast and genital development as well as pubic hair.
The mother says she was also shocked to see that the maturation packet also contained drawings of sexual development for each of the five levels to assist the doctor's examination.
State Education Department spokesperson Jane Briggs defends the use of the Tanner Scale. "It's for their own safety... physical maturity is what we're looking for," Briggs told Kenyon by phone.
Briggs pointed out in an email that "The Tanner Scale is used only for those athletes that are at a high level of readiness in grades 7 and 8 who want to move up to play at the high school level." She went on to explain, "Physical maturity is still a part of the process as it indicates growth plate development. The exam is intended to prevent growth plate injuries which could affect an athlete for life."
Briggs says the drawings depicting the five levels of the Tanner Scale "were pulled from the form last spring. Districts are only to use the materials required by SED for the selection and classification process....but schools may use their own form for the general sports physical."
Briggs also says "If females have reached menarche (started menstruating) they are automatically at Tanner 5 and do not have to go through the visual exam."
The mother says she is so upset that her son would be subjected to such a requirement, "I'm not going to have my son do it." She also says such personal information would be placed in her son's school records where they could be accessed by a number of people.
Contacted by phone, the Athletic Director of the School District in question says that he and he alone has access to the Tanner Scale files, but he could not speak for other school districts. The Athletic Director did not share his personal opinion, "that's out the window" he said, "We're following a state requirement." He says the District will no longer distribute the form that contains the graphic drawings of genitals. "We'll go with the new state forms." he said.
Click here to download and read a copy of the athletic profile and testing forms. Note: this link also contains images that may be considered 'graphic'.
Do you feel the mother is right? Should sexual maturity be used by schools to gauge physical readiness to play sports? Should there be an exception for non-contact sports?