School officials should not make empty promises to young athletes by offering but not giving them the support they need.

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STRUGGLING students need lots of help, from academic tutoring to mental-health counseling and sometimes food to eat. Add in a stable place to sleep at night if they’re homeless.

What student athletes don’t need is school officials making empty promises by offering, but not giving, all this support plus a chance to play high school sports. But that’s what happened at some Seattle schools, according to watchdog reporting by reporter Claudia Rowe.

Seattle school administrators and coaches were misusing the system designed to help homeless students to bolster their sports teams. Rowe found that some schools labeled student-athletes as homeless so they could bypass normal playing restrictions based on grades or residency.

At Garfield High School last fall, a quarter of the football team was listed as homeless. According to school-district records, homeless student-athletes attend every traditional high school in the city, although not every school has come under question for the way these students are treated.

With the homeless label, the students get time on the field but not all the extra help they need and deserve. And once the basketball or football season is over, assistance for these homeless student-athletes can disappear.

The school system is failing these students in so many ways by not supplying the academic and emotional support they need to actually succeed in high school. School-district officials are aware of the problem, rightfully concerned and conducting their own investigation. If they conclude students are being enticed to certain schools to play sports — legally or otherwise — and then not giving the support and help they need, the district must strengthen its policies and enforce the rules.

These students have the potential to succeed in high school and college but only if they are given the intense assistance they need. They need adults to take responsibility for them, not just support their athletic ambitions. They need guidance by school counselors and social, emotional and physical support.

Of course, athletes are not the only students failing to get all the help they need from our public schools. More resources need to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

But this practice is exploitive.

The Seattle school district now has homeless student athletes on its radar screen, thanks to The Times report. Their investigation should result in more help for students if they truly are homeless and a stop to any unfair or illegal recruiting of especially vulnerable student athletes.

These student athletes could do great things — as successful adults, not just professional athletes — but they need more than occasional tutoring during the football or basketball season.