BY BRANDON SPECK
BELDEN – Smithville principal Chad O’Brian opened quite the can of worms Wednesday night.
At the MHSAA District 1 coaches meeting, O’Brian proposed in the next reclassification, private and parochial schools not be allowed back in the public school association. He said the concern in the coaching community is the two types of schools are treated differently.
The proposal passed by majority vote and will be on the MHSAA legislative agenda in October.
“I think you can see by the fact that it passed tonight, there’s support for it,” O’Brian said. “It’s something that’s been talked about in the coaching community for a long time.”
Tupelo Chrisitian is one of only five private schools in the Journal’s coverage area. Baseball coach Will Lowrey says this open conversation will help with an understanding of what private schools are allowed and not allowed to do, similar to the cohesion he says the different schools have in south Mississippi.
“My initial thoughts are, ‘Why?’” Lowrey said. “We play by the same rules. We have a district. We cannot recruit. We cannot pay for kids’ ways. As long as we’re following the association’s rules, I’m very curious.
“I really know why. We’ve been waiting for this. What it is is ignorance over what the rules really are.”
MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said private schools are not allowed to recruit. The major distinction is a 20-mile radius in which they are allowed to have students attend, compared to the smaller districts public schools abide by.
Other eligibility rules state that wherever the legal guardian lives, that’s where the student goes to school. If there is a “bona fide” move, the eligibility moves to that district. Eligibility doesn’t change unless there is a move.
Hinton says students in two-school areas have to choose where they want to attend before entering ninth grade. After that, transfers would have to sit out a year, same as public schools. He says he is confident schools are complying.
“The rules seem to apply a little bit different on when they’re eligible and how quickly they’re eligible,” O’Brian said. “We just want a level playing field. That’s really all we’re asking for.”