Thursday, April 26, 2018
Education

Two more students sue Hillsborough school district over athletics policy

TAMPA — Two Jefferson High School sisters have sued the Hills­borough County school district, saying they should be able to play softball after transferring this academic year from Blake High School.

The suit is the second recent challenge to the district's new athletic transfer policy, which was enacted to prevent schools from recruiting star athletes. Attorney Peter Hobson, who represents the plaintiffs and handled a previous suit for a Sickles High School football player, contends the district policy deprives students of rights guaranteed by a state law that says the rules "must allow a student to be eligible in the school in which he or she first enrolls each year."

In Hillsborough, a student who enters a school past ninth grade must sit out a year of sports unless he or she meets certain criteria. A district committee makes the call, and students can appeal to the School Board.

Kayla Jo Fernandez, a senior, has lived with her grandmother near Jefferson High throughout high school and helps care for her, according to the suit filed Jan. 2. Justine Fernandez, a sophomore, entered Blake for its Urban Teaching Academy but left after learning the program no longer offered college scholarships. Although Justine lives with her parents near Hills­borough High School, she was accepted into Jefferson through the district's choice program.

District spokesman Stephen Hegarty said he could not comment on a pending lawsuit.

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