Man, I learn something every day.
Take last week, for instance: A federal judge could not stop the Mississippi High School Activities Association from discriminating against soccer players because MHSAA officials state a rational purpose for the rule.
Sixteen high school soccer players and their parents went to court to stop enforcement of a new rule relating to how many independent club players can play on a high school team.
They insisted their equal protection rights under the constitution were being violated because some people got to play and others did not.
Although the judge said MHSAA could be sued, she said the purposes of its rule are rational related to its interest of promoting fair competition in schools, “although better alternatives may exist.”
What was striking during the hearing was MHSAA’s admission that its new rules – two years in the making, its director said – are messy, apparently copied and pasted from Louisiana, and that it enforces some of them and just looks the other way when one conflicts with another.
Sometimes it’s hard not to just shout out in the courtroom, “You said, what?!!!” However, working the past six years in federal court, I just put my hand over my mouth and swallow hard.
Now I’ve gotten curious. Who else has had experiences with MHSAA they’d like to talk about?
This is a rock I’d like to look under.
MHSAA, a Clinton-based nonprofit, arose out of the Legislature’s authority to state schools for an association to oversee academic and athletic competitions, including band, poetry, debate society etc.
MHSAA said it has a statewide process for rule making that starts in the local/district level, where school representatives meet and discuss what needs to happen or not. Those successful issues proceed up through a hierarchy to be voted at the highest level, in the fall and in the spring.
If your issue gains support both times, you’ve got change.
But what if your local representatives don’t read their emails, or don’t bother to tell anybody else about the issues at hand? How are parents, teachers and others to gain information, if the issues aren’t publicized well enough?
Testimony in last week’s hearing showed that Tupelo’s soccer coach did not hear about the participation rule change until late May, even though it was approved months before.
Starkville’s independent club coach, who maintains close ties with the high school team, said he didn’t hear about it until June.
There’s something broken, but it’s not easy to see how it gets repaired.
Critics claim there’s politics involved, too. Sectionalism. Sportsism. OleBoyism. Imagine that.
Apparently, it is an imperfect system. It makes you wonder if there might be a better way.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org (662) 678-1596.