Sunday, January 21, 2018
Education

Hillsborough School Board still struggles with athletics policy

TAMPA — For the second time this year, the Hillsborough County School District will revisit its new athletic transfer policy, which is the subject of a recently settled lawsuit and a lot of aggravation for the School Board.

The decision to discuss the policy at a Dec. 2 workshop came after a frustrating afternoon for the board, which heard five appeals, most involving a group of softball players who left Blake High School.

Some were allowed to play and others were not after describing circumstances that included problems with the coach, a bullying situation that caused a student to drop out for a while, and a disappointing journalism program.

At one point, board member Cindy Stuart suggested suspending the entire process until the policy is revised. "We are all over the map," she said. Member Candy Olson agreed that the policy needs to be revised, and fast. "I'll come in on my off day," she said.

An equally frustrated Doretha Edgecomb mused that the process was so confusing, the board might as well just approve every appeal on the list.

Under a policy devised in the aftermath of an eligibility scandal at Armwood High School, Hillsborough athletes must sit out a full calendar year of play if they transfer to a school after their freshman year.

There are four specific sets of exceptions that a district committee can consider. If the committee rules against the athlete, he or she can appeal to the School Board.

Tuesday's hearings came shortly before the board voted to settle a lawsuit by a Sickles High School football player. His attorney, Pete Hobson, contends the whole district policy is illegal, as it goes beyond a state law that entitles students to participate in sports at the first school they entered in a given school year.

While the board can discuss the policy on Dec. 2, it cannot vote without advertising and holding a public hearing.

In other business, Carol Kurdell became School Board chairwoman, replacing April Griffin.

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