Hillsborough School Board hashes out athlete transfer policy

TAMPA, Fla. - Hillsborough County School Board members held a workshop Monday trying to find a way to improve the current student athlete transfer policy. Right now, students must meet at least one of four exceptions in order to play sports if they transfer schools, otherwise, they're suspended from playing for one year.

Right now the board is handling 20 to 50 appeal cases each month from student athletes who transfer schools, and now, they say the goal is to reduce that number significantly by tightening up the current policy.

" With children and sports and their parents it's always a complicated issue, so it probably has been more of a process than we thought it might," said Carol Kurdell, Hillsborough County School Board's Chair.

Student athletes who transfer schools must prove to a committee that they've either made a permanent move or have been reassigned to a new school by the district.

That's something Attorney Peter Hobson, who represents several local families, sees as a problem. " I f you're going to make residence important criteria you have to take into consideration that one child may have two or three residences he or she lives in during a course of a calendar year," said Hobson.

At Monday's workshop, the school board's attorney suggested changes addressing some of those issues. He suggested adding a fifth exception that would allow students to play sports if the school transfer is because of a provable hardship, and he suggested that the board not allow families to submit any new evidence at any appeals.

" It's a simple process to tell someone no, just flat no, it's a more complicated process to be able to say yes to a student who values his sport and for circumstances beyond their control," said Kurdell.

But, even if these changes are put into place, Hobson says as long as it's the district making these decisions, the process is still unfair. " We have to have less school board related individuals making these decisions on the appeals and more lay people involved because that would give the families and students the feeling they are getting impartial and fair hearings when they are denied," said Hobson.

The school board's attorney will submit the proposed policy to board members within the next month and he says he expects them to vote on it sometime in February.

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