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An MHSAA Commentary From Executive Director John E. "Jack" Roberts:

Enrollment Comes First - A Call To Protect School Sports

The most basic policy of school sports - the premise and the first rule - is that persons must be students of the schools they represent in competition.

The policy is not absolutely rigid. Many accommodations are available. If students and schools agree and arrange, students can take some or all of their courses in another facility and remain eligible at their base school. This can apply, for example, to:

· Special education students
· Alternative education students
· Students taking courses at colleges and universities
· School-administered home-bound, home schooling and distance-learning programs
· Schools involved in cooperatively sponsored sports programs

In each case, a close connection between students and the schools they represent in sports must be maintained. It is inconsistent with the goals and objectives of educational athletics to have students without such a connection drop by the school building after the school day is over and take spots on school teams away from properly enrolled and/or connected students.

We have no quarrel with those who choose alternatives to public schools. They should have this prerogative. And likewise, schools should be allowed the prerogative to limit their teams to their own students.

Some people who do not choose public schools for their children's classroom education want their children to associate with those schools for the sports teams their preferred program of education either cannot or will not provide. They ignore the hypocrisy of that position.

Most often they use the argument that they pay taxes, believing doing so purchases their son or daughter the right to engage in an activity for which they are not enrolled. They ignore that no such right exists, any more than the right to ride government airplanes because our taxes helped buy them.

Even students who are enrolled in a school don't have the right to participate in voluntary, extracurricular interscholastic athletics; so obviously, students who are not enrolled in that school don't have the right.

The basic rule of school sports is enrollment - enrollment in the school that sponsors the team. Any modification of the basic rule should occur in the future as it has in the past: because schools and the full-time athletic association most of them have joined, see the need and can implement the change with proper accountability.

Proposed "extracurricular" legislation - which would require public schools to allow athletic participation by students of charter schools, home schools and other non-public schools -- is an airball philosophically and creates many practical problems:

1. The legislation provides at best no net gain in participation opportunities:

· Unenrolled students will displace enrolled students for the limited number of playing positions on public school teams.

2. The legislation provides a disincentive for nonpublic and charter schools to maintain existing teams or create new teams, likely resulting in fewer opportunities:

· Schools with struggling programs will have less incentive to keep them; schools without programs will have no incentive to start them.

3. The legislation creates a management nightmare:

· School calendars differ for vacations and exams and grading periods; school requirements and penalties differ for attendance, academic eligibility and codes of conduct.

4. There is no oversight of unenrolled student's behavior, attendance, curriculum or progress toward graduation.

· The academic integrity of educational athletics will be lost.

5. The legislation is a return to big government:

· Legislature making rules for schools, even in the area of voluntary, extracurricular activities.

6. The legislation will outrage the parents of enrolled students when their children lose participation opportunities to unenrolled children who spend no time in that school's classroom and are unaccountable to that school's administration and board of education.

If this legislation passes, it won't be too long until the starting 5 for your public school's basketball teams is as follows:

Point Guard: 5'8" freshman who attends a small Christian school in the next town.

Shooting Guard: 6'0" sophomore sharpshooter who attends that same Christian school but played basketball at your cross-town rival public high school last season.

Center: 6'8" out-of-state transfer who was academically ineligible the previous year, but is home schooled and eligible now. It's uncertain if he's a junior, senior or in his 5th year of "high school."

Power Forward: 6'5" junior who for 3 years has attended a charter school 30 miles away from your school.

Shooting Forward: 6'2" senior who's home schooled and playing on his 4th different team in four years.

If that's what you want, stay silent while others play the game on their home court without any opponents or referees.

Scenarios Created By The Proposed "Extracurricular" Legislation

1. A student who lives in Lansing and is home schooled . . .

· Could participate on Lansing Eastern's football team in the fall, Lansing-Sexton's basketball team in the winter, and Lansing Everett's baseball team in spring.

· Could participate in the same sport at three different Lansing high schools during three years.

2. A student enrolled in Williamston schools all his/her life and who was a par-ticipant on its high school sports teams for three years . . .

· Could lose his spot as quarterback to a student who has never attended Williamston Public Schools.

· Could get cut from the softball team because of the addition of four stu-dents who are not enrolled at Williamston High School, one of whom at-tends a Christian school, the second who attends a charter school, the third who is home-schooled and the fourth who attends no school at all but simply lives in the district.

3. A student who attends one school while playing on the sports teams of an-other school could have different calendars for academics and athletics, re-quiring the student to choose between . . .

· Studying for exams of one school and playing for the sports teams of the other;

· Taking those exams of one school and playing for the sports teams of the other,

Thus hurting more than helping the academic interests of the student.
The student could miss the contests to study or take exams, thus hurting more than helping the team.

4. So many students could abandon the existing sports program of a nonpublic or charter school that the nonpublic or charter school is left with insufficient participants to sustain a team, or multi-levels of teams, thus hurting more stu-dents of nonpublic schools than are helped.

Click here to find out what others are saying about the proposed legislation.