CLINTON — A move to reset the East Feliciana Parish school system’s minimum grade-point average for participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities failed by a two-vote margin after impassioned debate Tuesday.

The board voted last month to allow extra-curricular participation with a minimum gpa of 1.5 on a 4.0 scale.

Opponents of the vote tried Tuesday to rescind the action.

Superintendent Douglas Beauchamp, in reviewing this year’s pupil progression plan, said he found the board had voted in 2002 to gradually raise the bar from 1.5 to 2.0 by the 2004-05 school year.

The tougher requirement apparently did not get passed down to the school level during administrative changes in the central office and schools, as well as changes in coaching staffs.

Athletic teams have been following Louisiana High School Athletic Association guidelines, which require a “C” average for sports participation.

The LHSAA allows the school system to determine how “C” averages are computed.

The East Feliciana Parish school system’s pupil progression plan defines a “C” average as 1.5 to 2.4, Beauchamp said.

Rather than enforce the 2.0 gpa minimum, the board voted last month to suspend it for a year and send the policy to its Policy Committee with an eye to raising the standard back to 2.0 next year.

Board member Rhonda Matthews pushed Tuesday to set 2.0 as the minimum again.

Her motion only gained support from members Melvin Hollins, Mitch Harrell, Debra Spurlock-Haynes and Broderick Brooks.

Board members Olivia Harris, Henry Howell V, Ben Cupit, Paul Kent, Michael Bradford, Richard Terrell and Rufus Nesbitt voted against her motion.

Matthews said she thought last month’s vote was “degrading,” as if the board was saying “we can’t make better than 1.5.”

Spurlock-Haynes said East Feliciana Parish’s students would meet tougher standards if educators would convince them of the need.

Responding to comments that many students are “latch-key kids” or children raised by grandparents who lack support, Spurlock-Haynes said teachers must follow the advice given by the late Lloyd Lindsey, the West Feliciana Parish superintendent, who said, “You teach kids as if they don’t have parents.”

Cupit, who once coached at Clinton High, said the school’s football team once had a player who lived by himself in a car, but the coaches worked to give him tutoring and other types of support that paid off when the student finished school.

State officials who criticized East Feliciana’s move to clear up a misunderstanding would better serve Louisiana’s children if they would fully fund the school system and stop passing unfunded mandates to the schools, Cupit said.

“We don’t live in a ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ ‘Bill Cosby’ world. This is a reality,” Cupit said.

Beauchamp said 30 school superintendents across the state responded to his survey on grade-point requirements, and 25 of the districts allow participation with a 1.5 average.

Beauchamp said he found it ironic that a state representative who criticized the East Feliciana Parish School Board in a television report is from a school district that has the same requirement.