Boundary disputes are yearly occurrence

Tim Martinez: High Schools

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant sports editor

Published:

 

So did you hear the story about how a mother’s public scolding about a dirty bedroom got her sons declared ineligible to play high school football?

The story hit the web last week. By all accounts, this was not a case of a family trying to circumvent the rules, just one who didn’t understand the rules.

For those of you who didn’t see the story, here are the highlights.

A family in Henry County, Tenn., moved to Perry County, Tenn., about 1½ hours to the north. Two brothers, who were standout linemen, began playing football for Perry County High School. However, their mother remained in Henry County, because that’s where her job was located.

So, the brothers spent Monday through Friday in Perry County, and the weekend with their mother in Henry County.

According to the Nashville Tennesseean, the mother posted on Facebook that she had just sent her sons back to Perry County and would not see them until next Friday.

Then she posted: “How can two boys mess up their room as badly as they do when they’re only here on Saturday and Sunday?”

Whoops.

Officials from Tennessee’s high school athletics governing body caught wind of this. After brief investigation, the officials declared the brothers ineligible to play for Perry County because the entire family had not moved to Perry County.

This is a common rule, and one that is used here in Southwest Washington. In fact, there have been athletes here declared ineligible under similar circumstances, at least temporarily.

It’s a story that underscores how important it is to understand the rules if you have a child who moves from one school to another — especially if that child plays sports.

But it’s just as important to understand the rules — and the circumstances — before pointing a finger at a perceived breach of the rules.

There are many circumstances that will allow a student to move from one school to another.

The easiest is when a family changes its residence from one school boundary to another. Technically, this is not a transfer. It’s a relocation.

I’ve long said that every parent chooses where their children attend school when they choose where to live. If a parent is willing to endure the cost and inconvenience of moving to improve their child’s school environment, that’s their right.

Another type of relocation is when a student has divorced or separated parents, and chooses to live with the other parent. If the other parent lives in another school boundary, the student can start playing for another school.

We’ve seen athletes change schools in the middle of the season by using this rule.

A transfer occurs when a student changes schools without changing their residence. Within the same school district, students can request a boundary exemption for academic reasons. Maybe one school has a stronger math or science program. Or maybe a school offers an International Baccalaureate program instead of Advanced Placement, or the other way around.

If a student can provide a sound academic reason for the transfer, usually school districts will try to grant the request.

That’s because districts want to put students in the best environment for them to succeed academically. If the change improves a student’s athletic environment, well that’s a collateral benefit in the eyes of district officials.

Every year, The Columbian gets calls, emails — even a good old-fashioned letter — from readers who accuse schools of recruiting or families of breaking the rules. Usually, there are very few details. Almost always, these messages are anonymous.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard an accusation, I’d be able to send my kids to a private school.

If I had a nickel for every time an accusation actually led to a violation and sanction, I might be able to buy them a gumball.

And usually when there is a violation, it’s usually a product of a family that didn’t understand the rules. Kind of like this family in Tennessee.

So we’re always interested in a good rumor. But an accusation without any evidence — like a juicy Facebook post — is like a raindrop in the winter.

Here are some prep events to keep an eye on this week:

BOYS GOLF: The regular season concludes this week in the 4A, 3A and 2A Greater St. Helens League. Camas has already clinched the 3A GSHL title with a 6-0 mark. Union plays Skyview on Wednesday at Tri-Mountain for the 4A GSHL title. The 4A and 3A district tournaments are next week.

VOLLEYBALL: Skyview, which had its long league winning streaks snapped by Union last month, will look to even the score with the Titans when the two teams meet Tuesday at Skyview. Hockinson will try to get back in the 2A GSHL race when the Hawks host first-place Mark Morris on Thursday.

GIRLS SOCCER: Skyview can put a stranglehold on the 4A GSHL standings with wins over Union (Tuesday) and Evergreen (Thursday). Union and Evergreen are tied for second behind the Storm entering the week. Hockinson hosts first-place Mark Morris in a 2A GSHL matchup on Thursday.

FOOTBALL: There is no Friday doubleheader at McKenzie Stadium this week. Mountain View hosts Fort Vancouver on Thursday night, with Union facing Heritage on Friday. The key game of the week is Friday when Prairie plays at Columbia River. It’s a must-win for Prairie if the Falcons want to claim one of the 3A GSHL’s three playoff berths. Prairie has already lost to Camas and Mountain View.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538 or email tim.martinez@columbian.com