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Archive for Monday, August 28, 1995

KSHSAA RULING STUNS LEADERS

August 28, 1995

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Associated Press Writer

Topeka -- Nobody in government is ready to shut down the Kansas State High School Activities Association, but a judge's stunning declaration that it is operating unconstitutionally has captured leaders' attention.

The Legislature's summer education study committee asked KSHSAA Executive Director Kaye Pearce and the association's attorney about the issue at a Statehouse meeting last Wednesday.

Pearce conceded he was shocked by Sedgwick County District Judge Robert Bell's ruling. And lawyer Randall Forbes of Topeka said he thinks the Kansas Supreme Court will reverse the decision.

The state Board of Education, which has constitutional power to direct scholastic education policy in Kansas, is waiting to see what happens with the appeal of Bell's ruling. But its members already are talking about exerting stronger control over association business.

Just two Board of Education members have seats on the 77-member KSHSAA board of directors, and none is on the executive board.

``We might take a larger role,'' Board Chairwoman Kathleen White of Prairie Village said after the court decision.

``We should make an effort to get a state board member on the executive board,'' said Bill Musick of Minneapolis, one of the two education board members on the KSHSAA board of directors.

So far, Bell's July 14 ruling on a lawsuit challenging rules involving non-school sports activities has changed nothing. The lawsuit was filed when a Wichita man learned his son could not play on a summer league basketball team with more than two of his high school teammates.

The Kansas Association of School Boards is advising its members to ``proceed cautiously in matters relating to the rules and authority of the KSHSAA until a clearer picture emerges.'' It says the prudent course is for schools to voluntarily abide by existing rules.

The 368-school association, Pearce says, also is waiting to see what happens on appeal. A ruling is likely months away. Meanwhile, the association is making no contingency plans.

``I think it's premature to say we ought to do this, or we ought to do that,'' Pearce said. ``The stay (Bell granted for appeal) allows us to go on with business as usual.''

There is a feeling among association board members that no precipitous rules changes should be made, Pearce said.

``They believe they are totally defensible rules, and they feel they are necessary in the educational process,'' he said.

The rules are aimed at ensuring team athletics do not consume students' lives, striking a proper educational balance so students enjoy a well-rounded high school experience, Pearce said.

The rules are democratically developed by high school administrators, who hold most of the seats on the board of directors, and are subject to review twice a year, in September and April.

Ironically, the KSHSAA board has three proposed rules changes on its Sept. 13-14 meeting agenda that would extend restrictions now applying to football, basketball and volleyball to such new sports as soccer and baseball.

The KSHSAA is a private association. The legal issue is whether its authority to operate is constitutionally derived from the Legislature and the state Board of Education.

Rep. Gene Shore, R-Johnson, vice chairman of the House Education Committee, predicted the 1996 Legislature will consider a bill to alter the way the KSHSAA operates -- a certainty if Bell is upheld.

``Maybe we're more strict than we need to be (with rules), but I don't think we ought to be wide open, either,'' Shore said. ``Very few kids wind up being professional athletes. We need to consider education first.''

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