The governing association for high school sports in Ohio rarely sides with families appealing the rules that penalize student athletes who transfer from one school to another, an analysis finds.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association says the rules barring transfer students from competing for half of their first season are necessary to prevent recruiting of athletes and to keep student players from switching schools to avoid code-of-conduct violations. Nearly 70 percent of the 239 appeals filed by families of transfer decisions to the association in the past five years were denied, the Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.
The newspaper tracked the outcomes of the appeals through minutes of OHSAA meetings, the only public view into the association’s closed-door process, according to the newspaper. The OHSAA, a private, nonprofit organization, doesn’t open its appeals hearings to the public and isn’t required to make records public.
“A lot of the reasons why these kids transfer is out of their control,” said Terrence Coates, a Cincinnati lawyer who has represented several athletes who lost playing time because of a school transfer. “We should be looking for ways to keep them in the productive after-school activities.”
The transfer rule become stricter in August, though the punishment for breaking it lessened a bit, the newspaper reported.
In the past, an exception was made for students who transferred from private to public schools without physically moving into a new school district. More than 2,600 athletes used that exemption to gain eligibility, but a rule change eliminated it in August, according to the Dispatch.
The OHSAA now says ineligible transfer students must sit out the first half of the season, down from a full year.
The few exceptions, according to the rule, include students who enroll in the school for the deaf or blind; those who support themselves; students dealing with a change in parental custody; or students from schools that closed or had their athletic departments dismantled.
Sophomore Madison Hartman, of Canal Fulton in northeastern Ohio, had to sit out her sophomore season of volleyball after she transferred schools to escape bullying at her old one.
“The hardest thing for me as a parent was her passion was lost,” said Madison’s mother, Jamie Amedeo. “All of that’s gone. That sparkle. That drive. She doesn’t love it anymore. That’s sad to me.”
The family lost its 2012 appeal of Madison’s suspension, despite presenting medical, psychological and hospital records they said documented problems created by the bully.
The OHSAA defended its general approach in such cases while not responding specifically to the girl’s situation.
“I’m not saying bullying isn’t possible, but I haven’t seen anything rise to the level that I would consider bullying,” said OHSAA attorney Steve Craig. “But it’s the phrase du jour families are using as their ticket out of one school and into another.”