A disturbing new report from the Seattle Times claims that homeless teenagers in the city often enroll at a new school just in time for a sports scene, then remain eligible for that full season before transferring to a new school for a new sport or dropping out because their eligibility standards are much lower than their teammates.
As reported by the Times, there is a stunning recent track record of players gaining immediate athletic eligibility under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act only to then be cast asunder or outright neglected by the programs in which they play as soon as the season wraps up.
But coaches, former players and several district officials say high schools in Seattle have used student athletes, teaching them how to gain McKinney-Vento status but offering little support when the season is over. A recent basketball star from Garfield, for example, is in jail; two standouts from Ballard football have been in and out of prison; and numerous marquee athletes from both schools have failed to make it through four-year colleges.
The Times report goes into considerable detail into the case surrounding the football program at Garfield, which brought in teens from as far afield as Texas and Louisiana under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The program allegedly kicked into overdrive in the summer before the 2017 season when Joey Thomas took over the program’s head coaching role after previously coaching at crosstown rival Ballard.
Per the Times’ considerable research, the 2016 Garfield squad featured 15 members who qualified to compete because of the McKinney-Vento act. There’s much, much more to the story than what is sketched out here, so we heartily recommend you take it all in on the Times’ website. The tale touches on teens who were advised to lie about their temporary residence to gain McKinney-Vento status, parents who abetted the process because of their concern for the welfare of the students, and even a boys basketball team that captured a state title after the influx of a complete starting five of “homeless” players.
It all comes together to paint the portrait of a very seamy slice of American pie in the Pacific Northwest, one school sports campaign at a time.