Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation requiring the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to prepare guidelines for implementing a social-emotional learning curriculum for public school sports teams at the middle and high school levels.

State House News Service reported the legislation "would amend the state anti-bullying law," requiring DESE to publish new guidelines by June 30, 2024.

Supporters of the End Abusive Coaching Campaign tell SHNS the bill is "the first step in providing systemic change to public school sports teams that emphasizes the needs of 21st-century children and abandons a sports team model meant for 19th-century students."

Mitch Lyons, youth coach and the founder of and the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts explains, "While sports can be a tremendous source of joy for many, the very structure of the sports team institutionalizes a power balance between authoritative coaches and voiceless students that invites abuse."

The legislation was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and Rep. Kay Kahn, both Democrats from Newton.

SHNS says no district would be required to adopt the social-emotional learning curriculum, but the bill says a district "shall consider the guidelines" if it decides to integrate social-emotional learning into its athletic programs.

Creem says, "It's disheartening to see a recent string of high school sports incidents involving hazing, racism, bullying, and anti-Semitism."

Massachusetts Lawmakers Target 'Abusive' School Sports Coaches
Mary Serreze/Townsquare Media

The bill calls for teaching coaches and students to "create safe, supportive, and bias-free team cultures."

Supporters indicate the bill seeks to weed out: "mostly verbal abuse, coaches berating players or talking down to players or asking a layer to play longer if they might be injured, "says Newton North High athletic administrator Khari Roulhac.

Governor Maura Healey has supported similar efforts in the past as Attorney General.

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