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Family Commutes Across State Line for Sake of Sports

February 4, 1985

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ The border between Ohio and Michigan is also separating John and Judy Zeiler, a Michigan couple who have chosen to live apart five days a week so their children can participate in sports.

The Zeilers’ home in Bedford Township, Mich., is a mile from the Ohio border and 15 minutes from Central Catholic High School in Toledo. That has prompted the Ohio High School Athletic Association to ban the Zeiler children from the school’s sports program under a rule twice upheld by courts but skirted by the Zeilers and 35 other families.

″It’s a hardship on the whole family,″ Mrs. Zeiler said Monday. ″Right now, (sports are) very important to the kids, which is why we’re going through what we are.″

Since August, Mrs. Zeiler and three of her children have been living with her sister here, spending week nights in the city to qualify as Ohio residents.

Each morning, Mrs. Zeiler sends the children to school, then drives into Michigan to work at the family business, Zeiler’s Market, and care for her two younger children. At 10 p.m., she drives back to Ohio.

The commuting allows Terri and Joanie Zeiler to play volleyball and their brother, Bill, to be on the school’s wrestling team.

The Zeilers’ alternatives are to enroll the children in Michigan public schools, which they believe are not up to par academically, or drive them to the nearest Michigan coed parochial school, 45 miles away in Ann Arbor.

The Zeilers and other families have hired an attorney to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

″What we believe is that they (the children) have a right to a total education, and we believe sports are a part of that,″ said the attorney, David Kohler.

A year ago Monday, the U.S. District Court here decided the Ohio athletic association may bar non-residents from high school sports, a ruling put in effect because of suspicions that high schools were recruiting out-of-state youngsters for sports.

The court ruled the athletic regulation did not deny the right to obtain a religious education, a ruling upheld without comment last month by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Martin Vieth, a member of the athletic association board, said the rule has kept some students on the sidelines.

″It’s a difficult situation for the kids, I grant you that,″ Vieth said. ″But the unfairness has been tested in the courts, and ... they’ve decided to uphold the rule.″

The families in Toledo’s Michigan suburbs say they can prove their children have not been recruited and say that being barred from sports threatens their children’s well-being and right to a private education.

″We feel the athletics is such an important part of education, teaching them leadership and sportsmanship and keeping them from being available to get in trouble,″ Mrs. Zeiler said.

So the Zeilers will continue to commute, but not without a price.

″I kind of miss staying at home,″ said Terri, a sophomore, ″I miss being with my dad. I don’t get to see him very much.″

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