SALT LAKE CITY — December 15, 2008 — Under Utah’s “open enrollment” statute, parents have the flexibility to choose a school that provides the experience best suited to their children’s unique needs and interests. As a result, parents have the opportunity to enroll their children in any of Utah’s public schools that have space available. If the child is a student-athlete, however, they must play by a different set of rules — rules that generate unnecessary conflict for schools, parents, and student-athletes.
The Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy organization in Salt Lake City, today released Policies in Conflict: Open Enrollment and Student Athletes, an analysis and set of recommendations that encourages the State Legislature to resolve the conflict that exists between Utah’s “open enrollment” statute and UHSAA rules that govern the transfers and eligibility of student-athletes.
“The process used to determine a student’s athletic eligibility is unfair to students and parents because it is subjective, inconsistent, and complex,” said Matthew C. Piccolo, a policy analyst for the Institute and author of Policies in Conflict: Open Enrollment and Student Athletes. “In trying to promote fairness, the UHSAA pits students and parents against coaches and school administrators, creating a culture of mistrust. This also produces outcomes that are more favorable for schools than to student-athletes and their families. Simply, the current policy discourages parents from transferring their children to the school that will provide them the best overall high school experience available.”
The Institute’s recommendations make the transfer policy consistent with the state’s open enrollment statute, recognize the uniqueness of each student’s circumstances, restore a culture of trust between parents, students, and public schools, and are objective in their administration.
“The UHSAA should abandon attempts to discover intent, simplify the process, and provide parents with more avenues to influence transfer and eligibility rules,” the policy document states.
Sutherland presents three areas to be considered for reform and implementation. The recommendations include:
• A transfer window for student-athletes
• A mid-year transfer exception for student-athletes affected by normal family circumstances
• An exigent circumstances exception for student-athletes