Hillsborough Schools to consider new policy that puts burden on student athletes switching schools

New policy requires parents to present evidence

TAMPA - Student-athletes who transfer to a Hillsborough County school may soon face an exhausting process just to play their sport.

The school district is considering new rules after an Action News I-Team investigation led to Armwood High losing its football title.  The FHSAA found that the parents of five players at Armwood falsified documents so their kids could enroll at that school and play for the well known team.

The current policy requires to provide some evidence to a school that they actually moved to that district. The proposed new policy takes it a step further.

"Now your enrollment doesn't guarantee participation," said Lanness Robinson, Athletic Director for Hillsborough County School District.

On Tuesday, Robinson laid out what some argue is a long overdue policy. He believes it will shine a spotlight on dishonest parents and cut down on student athlete transfers.

"Every student that transferred, they would not be allowed to participate initially," he said. "They would have to go through this process."

That process is a tiring one. The parents of that child would have to go before a board of unbiased school and community leaders and present as much evidence as possible that proves they meet the required criteria.

The unfortunate and costly mistake at Armwood clearly had an influence on the proposed change.

"What happened, happened," said School Board Member Susan Valdes. "So why not move forward? We can't change what happened."

Valdes says implementing this one committee for all 27 schools provides some much needed consistency.

Most on the board seemed in favor of the change.

When asked if it's too tough, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said no and that it's only fair.

"Nobody will play until that committee makes a determination," she said.

Under this proposal, parents can bypass the committee if their child sits out one full year. At that point, they would be allowed to participate.

The goal is to get this policy in place by the second semester of this coming year.

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