High School Transfer Request Procedures Questioned

High School Transfer Request Procedures Questioned

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Sammy Linebaugh ReportingNew rules could be in the works for high school students seeking to transfer to another school.

A legislative audit of 2003 requests, released this week, finds there are inconsistencies when it comes to enforcing current rules.

The real issue at hand stems from sports, or high school transfer requests motivated by athletics. This legislative audit concludes state policies aren't being applied fairly and it's forcing a look at the overall goal of prep programs.

Mark Vanwagoner/Utah High School Activities Assoc. Attorney: "We're interested in high school kids playing. Not in not playing.”

Sounds simple enough until you talk about winning, starting positions, state championships -- the stuff of high school sports, and the desire of some students to switch schools based on athletic opportunities.

In Utah's open enrollment system, a student who seeks a transfer for sports reasons is required to sit out a year before competing in varsity athletics. The task of deciphering a student's motivation, historically, has been left to principals of both schools involved in the transfer.

If a student appeals a decision, a three-person panel, made up also of principals, reviews the ruling. And that, says state representative Duane Bordeaux, is a conflict of interest.

Rep. Duane Bordeaux: "It's tough to hold one of your colleagues accountable, and I think that's one of the flaws in the process that I see."

As of now, interpretation of the rules is left to the 124 principals of schools represented by the Utah High School Activities Association.

But an audit released this week, requested by Representative Bordeaux, found "inconsistencies" in how UHSAA rules are enforced student to student, and suggests the decision-making process should be streamlined.

Effective July 1st, the Activities Association has voted to take control of the initial decision of whether a student's transfer request is motivated by athletics.

Mark Vanwagoner Utah High School Activities Assoc. Attorney: "Instead of having the principals be the first line of determining whether there is any credible evidence, that's going to come from the staff of the association."

Bordeaux believes reform should go further, and that the appellate panel should also be restructured to include more than solely principals or administrators.

Rep Duane Bordeaux: "I think it should be more diverse. I think it should have parents on that committee. I think it should have students on that committee."

In the end, the association says any changes must consider two often competing interests, the desire of individual students and the objective of Utah's prep sports programs overall to preserve a fair playing field.

On average, we're talking about roughly 250 transfer requests a year. Typically, more than 90 percent are approved without any athletic eligibility restrictions.

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