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Parents sue high school sports group after it changed schedule due to COVID

Didn’t follow its own amendment process

A group of Illinois parents recently filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association for the way it handled the school year’s sports schedule in the face of coronavirus.

The Illinois High School Association is a non-government entity that oversees high school sports in the state.

The 161-page lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, asks the DuPage County Court to stop the IHSA from enforcing its realigned sports season, which bumped fall sports like football to the Spring.

The parents argue that the sports association broke its own by-laws in changing the sports seasons without following its own amendment process.

“[T]he IHSA Board of Directors adopted as binding guidelines on IHSA schools several non-binding guidelines issued by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker regarding the conduct and timing of interscholastic athletics for its member schools,” the group of parents argued.

The guidelines are currently enforced by the state of Illinois but officials with the association asked the governor on September 10 for the power again to oversee sports in the state. The organization did not publish the actual letter but confirmed its central message in a news release.

The governor announced the ban on most youth and high school sports on July 29 the same day the IHSA sent its new schedule for sports to the state.

MORE: College athlete criticizes unfairness of sports ban

Attorneys for the parents did not respond to an email seeking clarification on the guidelines and why it did not sue Governor Pritzker.

The lawsuit takes aim at the association’s “Return To Play & Contact Day Guidelines” which “ban some sports from occurring during the time periods mandated by the IHSA by-laws.” For example, IHSA officials moved the girls soccer season from the spring to the summer, in violation of its own calendar.

“The IHSA Board of Directors did not submit any sport season by-law changes to the IHSA Legislative Committee before announcing the Return To Play & Contact Day Guidelines, nor has there been an IHSA member vote to change any of the sport-season by-laws,” the lawsuit noted, in violation of its own rules.

The board of directors is composed of principals from Illinois high schools.

There is a specific legislative process the organization must follow, the parents argue, and because it did not follow this process, its Return to Play guidelines are invalid.

The parents also want a restraining order placed on the IHSA to bar enforcement of the Return to Play guidelines.

They argue there are “irreparable harms that cannot be remedied by money damages.”

Their list includes newly-overlapping rules “preventing [student-athletes] from playing both sports and depriving other student-athletes of a teammate.”

The parents further argue that senior students are at a recruitment disadvantage, especially because other states have allowed sports like football to continue in the fall.

The suit stated:

Senior student-athletes in fall sports barred from playing during the time period mandated by the IHSA By-laws, there will be no other opportunity as high school students to compete before colleges make athletics-related admissions and scholarship decisions during the spring. College athletics programs rely on senior season stats to make key decisions about whom to recruit and whether to offer scholarships or grants to student athletes.

Because the timing of those college decisions coincide with traditional fall sport seasons, IHSA students will suffer irreparable harm when considered next to peers in other states who were not required to sit out during the fall. This is especially true given that high school sports are continuing according to their traditional seasons in many states.

It noted “there have been 1,000 high school football games played across the nation this season without incident” as of early September, according to Sports Illustrated.

MORE: High school athletes face depression, anxiety over loss of sports

IMAGE: WGN News/Youtube

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.