Let them play ball
posted Friday, August 17th, 2012 @ 3:58 pm
Imagine you are a high school student at an academically failing school.
Imagine you have aspirations to attend college, and you are a pretty good football player. Your high school, though, will never give you the preparation you need to succeed in a college classroom.
Your parents tell you they have received a scholarship for you to attend a prestigious, academically challenging private school, one where the average ACT score outpaces the state average by almost 5 points.
You study the curriculum of the private school. You visit with the staff, with teachers, with the coaches of the football team. They even show you around the locker room and the football stadium.
Weeks pass before the bad news arrives: you are welcome to attend that private school, but you will not be allowed to play football for a year.
Is that fair?
It's a question that's being asked in light of a recent decision by the Louisiana High School Athletics Association. The LHSAA, in its infinite wisdom, declared voucher students who transfer to private schools are ineligible to participate in varsity sports for one year.
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson says the LHSAA has no rule that would allow voucher students to take the field this fall. The only way for that to occur is if the LHSAA member principals convened a special meeting and voted on a special rule to allow voucher students to immediately participate in varsity sports at the schools they transferred to.
There are two ways that such a special meeting could be called.
First, a special meeting could be called if a majority of the principals requested it in writing.
To say that is an unlikely scenario would be an understatement. After all, a majority of the principals preside over public high schools -- the same public high schools that voucher students are struggling to escape.
In other words, the principals of those public schools have both the motive and the power to prevent voucher students from taking part in varsity athletics at private schools.
There is a second scenario in which special meetings of the LHSAA principals could be called.
The president of the LHSAA could call for the meeting.
That is equally unlikely because the LHSAA president is Neville High School principal Brent Vidrine. Vidrine's school is an academically acceptable high school in the Monroe city school system.
Students at the academically failing Carroll High School frequently transfer to Neville to benefit from an advanced curriculum that's offered there. More than a few football players have made the cross-town jump from Carroll to Neville, too.
Conveniently, those players are eligible to take the field their first day at Neville because the LHSAA has a rule governing transfers within a school district when the home school is academically unacceptable and a student moves to another public school in the district.
Students transferring to private schools do not enjoy the same protections, according to the LHSAA.
That raises the question.
That's a question that officials with the LHSAA should answer, including Henderson and Vidrine.
In the meantime, we hope public school principals are not playing fast and loose with the academic and athletic futures of some of their students in a misguided effort to thwart the development of the voucher program, which the Legislature approved during the Regular Session earlier this year. And we certainly hope public school principals are not guilty of attempting to discourage students from accepting vouchers in an effort to give the sports teams at their schools an added advantage.
Yet, Henderson, Vidrine and their colleagues at the LHSAA could quickly shed any suggestion that they may be intentionally undermining a young man's or young woman's future, academically, athletically or otherwise.
They could do it if they just changed the rule to allow voucher students to play ball immediately.