If anything, Hillsborough County School Board members should be hyper-vigilant about making certain the district is enforcing eligibility rules for student athletes.
It was just two years ago that Armwood High School was found to have violated eligibility rules involving five of its football players, a revelation that sparked a districtwide effort to better enforce the rules.
That history makes the recent actions of School Board Chairwoman April Griffin all the more indefensible.
Griffin intervened in an eligibility case last month that the district had already investigated and ruled upon. Rather than ask for a review of the policies that led to the ruling, she sent a letter to the state’s high school athletic association that objected to the ruling.
She sent the letter on school district letterhead, leaving the impression she was speaking for the district when, in fact, she was speaking for herself and for the family of the student athlete.
She was wrong to send the letter on district letterhead, and wrong to meddle behind the scenes in a decision made by district employees who followed the rules in place to enforce eligibility.
School board members are elected to set policy, approve spending plans and evaluate the district’s superintendent. They are not elected to oversee day-to-day operations of the public school system.
Griffin was upset that school officials had ruled a freshman at Plant High School was ineligible to play sports. After receiving a tip, investigators had determined the student’s primary residence was not in the Plant High district. Investigators made their case by tracking the girl to and from school and searching utility records.
The local decision was upheld by a state athletic association appeals committee.
That wasn’t good enough for Griffin, who supported the family’s effort to have the ruling overturned. She says she objects to what she sees as inconsistencies in the way eligibility rules are interpreted and in the training investigators receive.
Those are valid objections for a school board member to make. But they should be made at a school board meeting, not in a personal letter under district letterhead.