DCIAA Changes Rule About Five Years' Eligibility

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has amended a controversial ruling about athletes' eligibility.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has amended a controversial ruling about athletes' eligibility. (Sarah L. Voisin - The Washington Post)
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By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2008

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has amended a controversial rule that allowed public school students five years to complete their athletic eligibility.

Bylaw 2701.3 (p) in Title 5 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations was amended last week to require that each student's eight semesters of athletic eligibility must be counted continuously, beginning when the student initially enrolled in ninth grade. It does not matter whether the student took ninth grade classes in a DCPS facility or elsewhere.

Rhee had changed the rule five months ago.

"They needed to add the word, 'continuously,' " DCPS spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said. "That was the holdup."

Students are still bound by the age requirement, which prohibits anyone who turns 19 prior to July 1 from competing at a D.C. public school in the subsequent school year.

When Rhee enacted the emergency legislation in October, students were given 10 semesters to complete four years of athletic eligibility. Coaches and athletic officials inside and outside the District roundly criticized the move, saying the provision could easily be abused and turn DCPS into de facto prep schools.

The NCAA has taken steps in the past year to limit students to one course from a fifth year of high school to be used to achieve initial eligibility. The move was a response to several fraudulent prep schools that had become popular destinations for prospective college players seeking to gain eligibility.

Rhee said in an interview in November that the rule was changed to help the students who took ninth grade in a middle or junior high school and then had difficulty transitioning to a high school environment. This year, DCPS moved all ninth-graders out of middle schools and into high schools. She said the intent was "miscommunicated," and the rule needed to be clarified.

Tigers Look for More

Last season, when Wilson's softball team won its first D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title since 2000, the team celebrated and relished the championship.

But the Tigers don't want to wait another seven years for their next title. In fact, they don't want to wait another seven weeks.

Wilson is on track to retain its crown. The Tigers were 8-2 heading into this week and have gained confidence with victories over private school opponents.

After losing their season opener to Bishop Ireton, the Tigers didn't play for nearly two weeks but have since won eight of nine, including over Bullis, Sidwell Friends, Holton-Arms and, on April 23, Georgetown Day, 4-1.

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