Bureaucratic Action Defies Common Sense
Whether or not you have a connection to home schooling, this story will make your blood boil.
Let me set it up for you.
It was two years ago that we celebrated the successful passage of the “SC Interscholastic Activities Act.” This new law gave Governor’s School, Charter School and Home School students the right to play for their local public school athletics teams and to participate in school activities like band, chorus, orchestra, ROTC, chess club, etc. South Carolina finally joined 28 or so other states that recognized that Governor’s, Charter, and Home School students were the children of taxpayers and that having such an option for all kids can be good for a community. (Here is the video from the Governor’s bill signing.)
The Interscholastic Activities Act passed the SC General Assembly without a dissenting vote!
How often does that happen?
One of those home school students who has benefited from the new law is a Andrew Mitchell, a young man living in the northern part of Spartanburg County who was able to make the Landrum High School Cardinals basketball team.
But, between this year and last, Andrew’s family moved a few miles away. That put him in the attendance area of Chapman High School. “No problem,” the school district in essence said. “We’ve had public school choice in Spartanburg District One for over 40 years. Parents can choose any school in the district. Just have Andrew continue at Landrum.”
This was great for Andrew’s family, and for the Landrum team, which had become a true sports home for the young man. In fact, everyone connected in any way to Andrew was strongly supportive of his right to stay at Landrum—the coaches, the principals, and the school district superintendent.
Enter the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL).
The SCHSL Executive Director, head of all public school athletics in South Carolina, denied the district’s request. According to his interpretation of League rules and state law, because the student was home schooled, he would not be able to take advantage of the long standing District choice policy. (Even though other non-home schooled students from the Chapman area go to Landrum and we assume vice versa.)
Confused and disappointed, the family appealed the decision of the Executive Director to the full Executive Committee of the SCHSL. There, even with the full support of the school, the school district, the local legislative delegation, and an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson, the family lost on a close vote.
A year ago, the SCHSL Executive Committee would have been the end of the line for the Mitchells. But, due to frustration with the ongoing shenanigans of the League, the legislature considered shutting down SCHSL in 2013, described in a famous blog post. At the end of that legislative year, attempting to take a more temperate approach, the legislature kept the league in place but required that a new Appeals Panel be established. The Appeals Panel is composed of citizens outside of League control.
Today (Friday) morning at 10:00 in the offices of the South Carolina High School League, the Mitchell Family’s appeal will be heard before that new panel. Pray for them, won’t you? If justice is done, they will win.
But whether they win or not, it has been amazing to see how so many in the Landrum, SC area—parents, teachers, legislators, principals, school board members, and the staff and legal counsel of Spartanburg School District One—have rallied around Andrew Mitchell. God bless them!
A legal brief has been prepared in support of the family and the school district. It makes for good bedside reading, even for a non-lawyer like me. Please contact us if you would like a copy.
We will update you as soon as we have a decision today.
Oran P. Smith, PhD
PS: If you are an attorney, perhaps you would be willing to assist the Palmetto Family Legal Resource Council with cases like this. We have at least five religious liberty and educational freedom cases on the front burner right now and could use some pro bono assistance. We especially want to chat with you if you have been to the Alliance Defending Freedom National Litigation Academy or have served as an ADF Blackstone Fellow. You can email me about the Legal Resource Council here.