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State board on Wednesday to address KHSAA issues

When the state Board of Education meets on Wednesday, one of the items on the agenda will be to discuss the concerns of some lawmakers about the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's rules.

The KHSAA decides whether kids who transfer from one school to another are eligible to play sports or must sit out for a year. And some critics have said the association has too much power and its rules are too strict.

For example, the KHSAA requires member high schools to sign a document waiving their constitutional rights with respect to KHSAA actions.

It also threatens to punish schools that follow court orders to let athletes play once they've been deemed ineligible by the association. The KHSAA tells a school that if the court order is overturned, the school's punishment may include forfeiting games, paying fines or going on probation.

“Obviously, we don't want any agency violating anyone's constitutional rights,” said Rep. Bob Damron, who co-chairs the legislature's Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee. The subcommittee must approve the ­KHSAA's rules.

Members and officials of the KHSAA “are like a battleship in the middle of the Kentucky River. They are kind of hard to turn around,” said Damron, D-Nicholasville.

He said the subcommittee can reject all of the agency's bylaws if lawmakers aren't satisfied with the way the KHSAA handles constitutional rights and court orders.

KHSAA Commissioner Brigid Devries said Tuesday that she is working with staff from the Legislative Research Commission on the wording of KHSAA regulations and will meet with Damron's subcommittee.

Damron's subcommittee is set to take up the KHSAA's rules on Aug. 12.

But first, the Board of Education would have to approve changes regarding how the KHSAA handles court orders and constitutional rights.

This is the second time in the past several months that state officials have made efforts to change KHSAA policies in regard to court orders.

In March, state Board of Education member Doug Hubbard proposed adding language to the bylaws that “no school or person shall be punished for following a court order.”

But the amendment did not pass because DeVries said at the time that it was not fair to an opposing team to allow students ruled ineligible by the KHSAA to participate in games — even when the court says they can.

She also told the board in a letter that at least two other states also have rules that allow athletic associations to punish schools if they follow a court order that is later overturned.

Doing away with Kentucky's rule, she said, would allow a school to ignore ­KHSAA rules simply because someone files a lawsuit.

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