Lawyers file defense of Pasco's student athlete transfer policy
A Dade City family fighting the Pasco school district's athlete transfer policy has sued the wrong agency, lawyers for the district argue in their motion to dismiss the family's case when it comes before a circuit court judge on Thursday.
The Mazza family should be pursuing its issues with the Florida High School Athletic Association, attorney Dennis Alfonso wrote, because the Legislature has given the FHSAA powers to govern high school sports. The FHSAA has authorized school districts to adopt participation policies that are more stringent that statutory eligibility requirements, Alfonso argues, and that appears to be the family's complaint.
Pasco policy requires all students who switch high schools after freshman year to sit out a year of sports participation unless they get a waiver to the rule. Michael Mazza, a senior soccer standout, was rejected by the committee in his request to play at Sunlake High School after transferring from Pasco High.
Mazza's lawyer contends that the district may not exceed statutory requirements. Alfonso has put forth that the district is not acting outside its authority.
Alfonso further notes in his filing that FHSAA rules call participation in athletics a privilege, not a right. As such, students must meet their schools' requirements. One of the Pasco requirements in policy is that students not transfer for purposes of athletics.
Alfonso filed as an exhibit the letter from district executive director of operations Ray Bonti to the family, in which he writes that Mazza told his Pasco High coach "prior to his parents completing the school choice request, that he was going to Sunlake High School to play soccer, since many of the players on the SLHS team were on his club team."
The case, originally scheduled to be heard Wednesday afternoon, is now set for a 2 p.m. Thursday court date. Stay tuned.