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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Luikart questions high school transfer policy

— School Board Vice Chairman Steve Luikart would like to see the Pasco County school district put its transfer policy for high school athletes on hold so it can be reworked.

His fellow school board members aren’t buying into his plan, though.

Luikart asked the board last week to consider an off-agenda item and made a motion to temporarily suspend the policy, which survived a legal challenge last school year, but has already been the subject of a complaint to the board this year.

“I still have some concerns over the impact of that policy,” Luikart told his fellow board members at their Tuesday evening meeting.

His motion died for lack of a second.

The board had held a workshop on the policy just before the meeting, and plans another workshop to discuss whether changes needed to be made.

The policy, which went into effect last school year, says student athletes must sit out a year from sports after transferring from one high school to another. There is an appeal process where the student can go before an Athletic Transfer Participation Committee and make the case that the transfer was for legitimate reasons that had nothing to do with sports.

If the committee rules against the student, the student can appeal to the superintendent’s office.

The policy withstood a court challenge last school year after the parents of a soccer player filed a lawsuit against the school district. A circuit judge ruled that the school board has the authority to place limits on who is eligible to play sports.

Phil Bell, the district’s supervisor of athletic programs, told the school board two weeks ago that even with the policy, it’s rare for a student to be denied eligibility. Last school year, 183 transfer students went before the committee seeking to gain eligibility, and the committee ruled in favor of 173, allowing them to play sports, he said.

Of the 10 who were denied, eight appealed to the superintendent’s office where their cases were heard by Ray Bonti, the district’s executive director of support services. Bonti overruled the committee in two cases, clearing the way for those students to play sports, but upheld the committee’s decision for the other six.

The latest discussion of the policy came after the parents of two Ridgewood High students complained to the board Aug. 12 that their sons were denied eligibility to play sports after transferring from Fivay High School. The parents said they did not understand why the committee ruled against them.

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