Judge Strips Kan. Interscholastic Group For Sports and Activities of Its Authority
The body that has governed interscholastic sports and other high school activities in Kansas since 1910 has no legal authority to operate, a state district judge has ruled.
The decision last month is believed to be the first time that a court has stripped a state school-activities association of its authority to make rules because it is a private organization.
Judge Robert Bell said that state lawmakers may not delegate legislative powers to private groups.
Kaye B. Pearce, the executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, said the organization intends to appeal the ruling and has proceeded with business as usual.
But should the judgment stand and appeals fail, "it will have major consequences for our member schools and the students involved in all activities, not just athletics," said Mr. Pearce.
There would be no body, for example, to set rules, train officials and coaches, or carry out tournaments, he said.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of three youths who attend Wichita public schools.
Charles Gunter's son, Chuck, a point guard and senior this fall at Southeast High School, wanted to play basketball on a summer sports league, but had he done so, he would have lost his eligibility to play on the school team.
The rule bars more than three students from the same school from playing together off-season in organized football, basketball, and volleyball.
Once he found out about the rule, Mr. Gunter said he called the association to find out if there was a way to change it.
"In a nice way, they told me to take a hike," he said.
"They forced him to basically sit and play pickup games," Mr. Gunter said of his son.
"The association was seeking to regulate and control activities of my clients' children in nonschool matters, such as summer play," said Ken Peterson, the lawyer who is representing Mr. Gunter and Brook Robinson, who has two sons involved in school sports.
Although the issue was not initially raised in the lawsuit, Mr. Peterson said he also was claiming that the association's rule has a disparate impact on African-Americans.
"If my son decided to play tennis, or racquetball, or swim, he could do what he wants," Mr. Gunter, who is black, said. "Those are country-club sports."
"Because he plays in the inner city, there is a difference," Mr. Gunter said.
Meant To Reduce Pressures
According to Mr. Pearce, parents and other members of the public can lobby their local school superintendents, principals, school board members, and athletic coaches and administrators who make up the 77-member board of directors if they want changes in the rules.
He also said there was no basis for Mr. Peterson's claim of racial discrimination.
The association's rules apply to the more competitive team sports "where overzealous people put pressures on students and coaches to play year-round," Mr. Pearce said.
A proposal that is scheduled to come before the board next month calls for the rules to be applied to all team sports.