Texas High School Rodeo

Proposed legislation would grant high school rodeo riders PE credit

Madison Baute, a rodeo competitor from Agua DulceUpdated June 18 with legislative changes and clarifications from the office of Sen. Jean Fuller.

High school freshman Jenna Culotta, 14, has a cowboy hat, a bay mare named Scarlett and a talent for rodeo barrel racing, which means she rides Scarlett like a race car driver around a three-barrel loop. What Jenna would like, please – rodeo riders must strive to be well-mannered, according to the National High School Rodeo Association rule book – is a physical education exemption for the hours of practice that have made her a barrel race contender.

The idea is anathema to physical education teachers. Barrel racing, goat tying and bull riding aren’t interscholastic sports, they say, and rodeo competitors aren’t coached by school coaches or supervised by school supervisors. “How in the world can you consider having something that is totally out of a school district’s ability to oversee get credit?” said Keith Johannes, legislative analyst for the Sacramento-based California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a membership organization for physical education teachers.

“That physical education matters so little that they would not even care to see what’s going on…, ” Johannes said. “It is the ultimate put-down for physical education.”

“I ask you today to look in their eyes to see if we, as adults, should limit them in any way, ” said Sen. Jean Fuller of high school rodeo competitors.

But this is the West. California ranks third in the nation in the number of high school rodeo riders, trailing Texas and Idaho, although the number is small – just 595 California high school students are registered with the National High School Rodeo Association. “It’s a dying sport, ” said Christie Baute, an Agua Dulce parent of two rodeo contestants, including her daughter Madison, 14. “And those of us who are involved are passionate about it.”

Now the riders’ quest to be exempted from physical education requirements, and the privileges such exemption would bring, has captured the attention of state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield. (Update: While Fuller’s office has stated that the bill would give physical education credit to rodeo riders, the bill would actually “exempt” rodeo riders from high school physical education. The difference is that an exemption allows students to opt out of state-required physical education curriculum and assessments. Also, Fuller’s office said on June 18 it will be changing the language of the bill to state that rodeo competitors would be exempt from physical education only after freshman year.)

Fuller, who said she grew up in the small Kern County town of Shafter where her No. 1 hobby was a horse, is the author of Senate Bill 138, which would clarify to local school boards that they are free to award a high school physical education exemption to rodeo competitors, if they would like to do so.


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