TAMPA — Penalized over its old policy and sued over its new one, the Hillsborough County School Board is working once again to tighten its rules governing student athlete transfers.
The athletic transfer policy was enacted in fall 2012, the year after Armwood High School was fined and stripped of its state football title and 26 victories dating back to 2010. The penalties came after a Florida High School Athletics Association ruling that parents of five football players falsified addresses so their children could enroll in the school.
The district’s current policy bars most student transfers from participating in athletics for one calendar year. Students can appeal to the Transferring Student-Athletes Participation Committee, a nine-member group that includes school district officials and community members. If the committee rules a student ineligible to play, the final appeal is to the school board.
During a workshop Monday, school board attorney Jim Porter went over a draft policy with board members and staff. “The goal is to clarify the process,” Porter said.
The policy recently entered the legal arena when a Sickles High School student sued the school district after being banned from participating in sports for a year. After negotiations, the suit was dropped and the student was allowed to finish out the football season at his new school.
One proposed revision would allow the school board to only consider information from the Transferring Student-Athletes Participation Committee’s report when making a decision on whether a student can participate in athletics. Board members said that would help streamline the process.
“If you look at the very few changes we have, the policy wasn’t very flawed,” board member Doretha Edgecomb said. “Where it failed was our own ineptness to be consistent at applying our own policies.”
The draft includes a section that says students are responsible for demonstrating that they meet one or more of the exemptions outlined in the policy. Exemptions include needing to transfer because of medical or psychological needs or because of a military order.
Board members said they hope a clearer policy eventually will take them out of the appeals process almost completely.
“I think we’ve spent an awful lot of time on a very small number of kids,” said board member Candy Olson, who phoned into the meeting via conference call. “We should be very much a last resort.”
District athletic director Lanness Robinson said the staff is working on a method of making sure students and their parents are informed about the rules before withdrawing from one school to enroll in a new one.
“Our plan of attack is going to include a sticker on the withdrawal form that’s there for every student,” Robinson said.