Private School Sues AHSAA

May 29, 2018

Last November, the Alabama High School Athletic Association put in place a new rule for "competitive balance," in which private schools reaching a certain level of success are bumped up a class. In response, St. Paul's Episcopal School, in Mobile, Ala., is suing the AHSAA. According to al.com, the St. Paul's lawsuit maintains that the rule tips the balance in favor of public schools, while penalizing private school for winning.

In Alabama high school sports, schools are classified based on their enrollment, and private schools are counted as having 1.35 times as many students as public schools. The new rule can push a private school to an even higher class. St. Paul's would qualify for 4A classification through actual enrollment, but is bumped to 5A with the multiplier, and moves up to 6A with the new competitive balance rule. In 2017-18, St. Paul's won 5A state titles in football, boys' swimming, girls' indoor track, girls' outdoor track, and boys' golf.

Blair Fisher, head of school at St. Paul's, wrote a letter to the community announcing that the Board of Trustees had unanimously voted to go ahead with the lawsuit.

"We are deeply concerned our students will now lose the opportunity to fairly compete in athletics and, more importantly, we believe the new rule creates significant, undeniable safety concerns in collision sports, like football,” Fisher wrote in his letter. “This action by the AHSAA is fundamentally wrong no matter how you look at it."

The lawsuit also cites Juan Ronderos, a neurologist who specializes in neurological disorders and spinal injuries, warning about the risks of pitting smaller private schools against larger public schools.

"As a medical professional who has treated high school and college athletes for over a decade for concussion and CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], I urge you to consider the fact that you will be placing our students in harm's way if this measure passes," Ronderos said.

Steve Savarese, Executive Director of the AHSAA, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said he had not seen the civil action. Before the competitive balance was approved, he had defended the idea.

"The task force looked a lot of options," Savarese said in November. "Increasing the multiplier was debated, but that would have done more damage than good. Some schools could have been moved up as many as three classes by raising it. With competitive balance, we were able to look at the schools who have the most resources and have had the most successes and advance them when needed."

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