Residents want controls on high school sports association
Aug. 18, 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Angry Bellevue residents who accused the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association of racism, intimidation and harassment have asked the Legislature to impose some control on the organization that oversees high school sports in Washington state.
"There has to be some government oversight," said Shelly Carlson, a Bellevue High School parent, who accused the association of "using a hammer to squash a fly" in its investigation of rule violations at the school, according to the Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/2fS887c ).
The results of the investigation released last year by the WIAA and the Bellevue School District concluded that a few players were encouraged and given tuition assistance to attend an alternative school that made them eligible for sports at Bellevue High.
The newspaper reported that some players were given false addresses to make them eligible to play for Bellevue, and coaches were involved in improper recruiting.
Investigators looked into 35 students — all African Americans, parents told the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee at a special meeting in Bellevue. Some of the students were asked how they could afford the cars they were driving or how their parents could afford to live in Bellevue.
"Let's be honest, this is a racism issue," said James Hasty, a parent, high school football coach and former Washington State University and NFL player.
Officials from the WIAA later disputed that figure.
WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said the association took seriously the allegations of racism, which first surfaced during the investigation.
When families later asked the school district to investigate the allegations, the district found nothing, Colbrese said.
A group of parents also sued the WIAA on behalf of some students. That case was thrown out when a King County judge ruled it was a nonprofit organization, not a state agency, and the students didn't have standing to sue because they were not part of the organization, attorney Marianne Jones said.
When they revised the claim to sue the investigators, another judge ruled WIAA was a branch of state government and threw out that case, she said.
The coaches who broke the rules are gone, but parents contended the students who didn't break the rules, and new ones who weren't even at the school when the violations occurred, are being punished unfairly by a shortened season and being barred from playoffs.
"Who's being punished if we keep kids out of the playoffs who were not involved in the issue?" said committee Chairman Mike Baumgartner, a Spokane Republican.
A bill that passed the committee earlier this year, but never came to a vote in the full Senate, would require any change to WIAA rules, policies or amendments to be made available to the Legislature for public review on Jan. 1 of the year it would happen, and not take effect until the session is over.
Others suggested the WIAA get oversight from the state Board of Education or the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Baumgartner introduced the bill to allow legislative review of rule changes, and said others could be proposed next year. But there are limits to what lawmakers can, or should, do.
"The Legislature is not going to spend time running sports. It could make sure there's an appeal process," he said.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com