A version of this was sent to the state school superintendent and school board members Aug. 21.
My daughter, Alexandra Davis, is a sophomore at North Springs Charter High School of Arts and Sciences in Sandy Springs. We have lived in this district since 1988 and have sent two other children through the local middle and elementary schools, culminating with North Springs. My wife is a longtime employee of the Fulton County Board of Education and is a teacher at Barnwell Elementary, a feeder for Autrey Mill Middle School and Chattahoochee High School.
Two years ago, under a hardship exemption for my daughter’s safety, we chose to have her attend Autrey Mill and then Chattahoochee. She also happens to be a talented softball player and was the starting varsity catcher last year.
Because of the extra drives between Sandy Springs and North Fulton for softball, and no longer having the concerns for her safety, Allie and her parents decided that she would attend North Springs this year and beyond.
We didn’t know there are rules that prohibit athletes from leaving one school and attending another unless the parents move. Such students are referred to as “migrants.”
We were certain that a simple explanation would suffice and that, at most, we would need to seek an exemption from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). It seemed that the rule was intended to prevent coaches from raiding other coaches’ players to create a championship program, but Allie simply was returning to her neighborhood school. Softball was not a factor in this decision, other than relieving us of the burden in the cost of gasoline and time to retrieve Allie from Chattahoochee. North Springs is not a softball power and is coached by two volunteers with daughters on the team.
But Chattahoochee softball coach Larry Erwin and athletic director Milo Mathis accused North Springs of tampering. The end result is that Chattahoochee stood in the way of Allie’s playing for North Springs by refusing to grant her the required release.
We appealed to the GHSA and attended a hearing in Thomaston. I left work for an entire day. Allie missed a day of school. We drove more than 200 miles round trip and presented our case, but the plea was rejected. It was indicated to us that Chattahoochee protested granting Allie an exemption. Now she may not play varsity sports of any kind at North Springs for one year.
Why does the GHSA have such power over the lives of children? I was told the association is under no obligation to make its deliberations public or give reasons for its decisions. There is no freedom of information as far as the GHSA is concerned. Behind closed doors, the good old boy network can do its work to protect itself.
Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA executive director, told me, “Rules are rules.” My response was that rules are subject to interpretation. This rule was not written for a situation like this. Any reasonable person can see this was not a case of raiding or tampering or jumping to a better program. Chattahoochee is a AAAAA program; North Springs is AAAA. North Springs has never been a sports powerhouse.
My daughter is a pawn and the only one hurt by this travesty.
How can this happen? How can motivated, school-spirited children be the pawns of bitter, 50-year-olds? What good comes of this? Has the sanctity of Georgia high school sports been saved because my 15-year-old can’t play varsity softball for her local school?
Is the GHSA immune from scrutiny? Please don’t tell me it’s a “volunteer organization so there’s nothing we can do.” I’ve heard this. How can they be remote from supervision when they have, in this sports-mad state, almost as much impact as the Board of Education? Shouldn’t we encourage participation and positivity rather than turn my daughter into a cynic at 15?
Andrew N. Davis