The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association notified a U.S. District Court judge it will recommend student-athlete eligibility guidelines for all private high schools -- including those with home-schooled students -- to follow in order to compete against the state's public schools, according to documents filed yesterday by the state's attorney office.
The filing comes in response to a $7.7 million lawsuit against the MPSSAA filed in March by parents of home-schooled students who wrestle for Progressive Christian School; the suit claims the MPSSAA discriminated against their children by not allowing them to compete against Maryland public schools.
According to the MPSSAA's current guidelines, member schools are allowed to compete only against teams whose athletes are enrolled at their school and of high school age. Of Progressive Christian's 16 wrestlers, 11 were home-schooled.
That suit led Judge J. Frederick Motz to request that the MPSSAA create unifying eligibility guidelines.
The state's attorney's office, which represents the MPSSAA, feels its new policy is grounds for Motz to dismiss the lawsuit.
According to the documents, the MPSSAA's proposal mandates that all non-member MPSSAA schools must abide by the same list of eligibility rules as its member schools in all sports.
For home-schooled students to be eligible to compete for private schools, they must be recognized by their local county as being home-schooled, and an official at that private school must verify each student is in good academic standing and registered in a certified home instruction program.
The recommendation now goes to the state's Board of Education, which still must adopt the measure.
"The judge asked us to come up with rules that apply to everyone and I think we've done that," said Ned Sparks, the Executive Director of the MPSSAA. Carlos Sandoval, an attorney who is the wrestling coach at Progressive Christian School in Temple Hills, said: "This represents a change in policy, but does not address some of the issues that are subject to the lawsuit. . . . We're absolutely still going forward with our lawsuit, but at this point we are very close in finding a resolution to this case with some fair and reasonable changes."
-- Jon Gallo