May 6, 2011

More than eight months after the D.C. Interscholastic Association offered a proposal to radically alter the standards for athletic eligibility for D.C. Public Schools, the bill is expected to reach the D.C. City Council within the next week, and be enacted in time for the 2011-12 school year.

Among the proposed changes:

l  Students will have four consecutive years to complete their athletic eligibility, thus eliminating the “10-semester rule,” which allowed students five school years to complete four athletic seasons.

l  Students will have to sit out a year of athletic competition if they transfer from one DCIAA school to another without a change in primary residence or extenuating circumstances.

l  Stricter guidelines to get DCIAA schools in compliance with the standards of competition as established by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“Apparently [the bill] was just sitting there,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said. “This needed to get moved on . . . The goal of this is to make the eligiblity requirements compatible with other jurisdictions. There’s a diminishing pool of folks that will play schools who play by these rules.”

Gray, told of the bill’s inactivity last week, contacted Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to make this change a priority.

All rules governing DCPS — including the DCIAA — are part of Title 5 of the D.C. Municpal Record.

DCPS Athletic Director Marcus Ellis said in August upon submitting the proposal that the City Council, which needs to vote on its inclusion in the DCMR, would receive it within a month.

The bill, however, languished in the hands of the DCPS Office of General Counsel and Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and was never passed on to the Council. The bill’s movement was further hampered when DCPS General Counsel James Sandman left in January.

The elimination of the 10-semester rule, which allows students five years to play four sports seasons, was thought to have been done three years ago. Former DCPS Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said in a Nov. 1, 2007 interview with The Post that she would change the rule to limit students to four consecutive years to complete their eligibility, and her former spokesperson confirmed six months later that it had been changed. It never was.

When Ellis first proposed eligibility rules changes, he was particularly adamant about eliminating the 10-semester rule, adding, “We were the only jurisdiction with that particular rule in place. Our student-athletes don’t benefit from playing [in high school] what should be their freshman year in college. It doesn’t benefit them academically. Sports are supposed to be a catalyst to an education and this holds them back.”

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