Open Enrollment in Utah and H.S. Activities Association Butt Heads Over Transfer Rules

Dec 11, 2009; Gardena, CA, USA; Oaks Christian quarterback Nick Montana (5) is pressured by Serra linebacker Woodson Greer (37) in the CIF Southern Section Northwest Division championship at Serra High. Photo via Newscom

In the Salt Lake City Desert News, an article by Amy Donaldson, High school sports: Transfer rule up for debate on kids' best interests, highlights a thought-provoking issue that raises some conflict between the Utah High School Activities Association's Board of Trustees and the Utah Legislature's Education Interim Committee.

Based on the article, it appears the Utah legislature is proposing a bill that would effectively allow student transfers from one school to another by forbidding a "school district, board or association from restricting transfers between schools for athletic reasons."

This new proposal is in opposition to the rule recently passed by the UHSAA (Utah High School Activities Association) that prohibits a student from transferring schools for athletic reasons. Regarding the UHSAA rule, the article states that:

"beginning this fall, students can go to any school they want on first entry, but once they establish eligibility at a high school, if they transfer to another school, they lose one year of athletic eligibility. There are exceptions, including a move, divorce, death or unforeseen situation."

Kelsey Harris gets two of her 25 pts. in the first half shooting over Erica Payne of Carondelet High school in the first half Friday in Sacramento. Brea Olinda vs. Carondelet for the CIF State Division II girls basketball championship at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Photo by Michael Goulding, The Orange County Register Photo via Newscom

The legislature's proposal, stated earlier, would effectively circumvent this recent policy created by the UHSAA, thus, allowing a student to transfer schools at any time for any reason - even mid-year.

When legislative counsel member Angela Oakes Stallings was asked if a student athlete could transfer to three different schools during a school year playing football at one, basketball at another, and baseball at a third, her reply was:

"Yes," Stallings said. "I think they could. As long as there weren't recruiting efforts."

Ok, is it just me or does anyone else see a problem with this?

I understand that Utah has an open enrollment policy allowing kids to attend any school of their choice regardless of what district they live in, but does the legislature really believe that having no restrictions whatsoever is a good thing?

Sure, you would hope that parents (and their athletic offspring) make decisions about transferring schools based primarily on academic reasoning. However, sometimes idealistic perspectives crash head-on with reality.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes.NP_304947_CLIF_BASEBALL_6 (CLEARWATER Tuesday 4/28/2009) Mitchell vs. Gaither, District baseball, Tuesday, April 28. Class 6A-7 tourney at Countryside High School. Gaither High School outfielder Drew Doty Photo via Newscom

In other words, what might look like a great comprehensive approach on paper doesn't exactly work in real life. That is, unless individuals with solid experience and a broader vision (like the UHSAA) create some level of control over an absolute like the Utah legislature wants to establish with their version of open enrollment.

Does the legislature really believe that recruiting would not intensify, that some will transfer merely for athletic reasons (who would know), and that allowing this could easily create a very unbalanced (unfair) system?

Like it isn't tough enough now to keep things equitable, right?

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