FHSAA sued after home-schooled teen forced from Oak Hall soccer team
Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.
The parents of a home-schooled student in Keystone Heights have sued the Florida High School Athletic Association for preventing their son from playing soccer for Oak Hall School.
The lawsuit accuses the association of violating the spirit of a law that allowed Gator quarterback Tim Tebow to play high school football while being home schooled.
Stan and Carrie Brockinton of Keystone Heights filed the suit Wednesday in Alachua County circuit court on behalf of their 14-year-old son, Stan Brockinton II. The association ruled he couldn't play sports for Oak Hall for a year, while allowing another student who had been home schooled and then enrolled at the private Gainesville school to play immediately, the lawsuit alleges.
"It seems like discrimination, in a sense, because we're home schooling," Stan Brockinton said.
The association ruled against Stan Brockinton II because he played off-season soccer for a club team run by Gainesville-based Leg-A-Z Soccer. Oak Hall soccer coach Basil Benjamin is president of Leg-A-Z Soccer, and the association decided that allowing the 14-year-old to play would violate a law intended to prevent recruiting.
Denarvise Thornton, the association's associate executive director for compliance and eligibility, said he couldn't talk specifically about the case because of student privacy issues. He said the recruiting rule only prevents participation in games for a year, allowing students to practice and work out with teams.
"In short, the intent is to provide opportunities for students to participate in interscholastic athletics," he said. "However, it is unintended to deter ... choosing the schools strictly for athletic reasons."
The rule initially applied to just individuals who coached at schools and clubs. It was expanded several years ago to include others affiliated with club programs, he said, because some coaches were changing their official designation to circumvent the rules.
An attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, Jim Mason, is representing the Brockintons along with a Gainesville attorney, Jim Sullivan. The home-schooling group had used Florida law, and Tebow's experience, in making the case for laws allowing home-schooled students to play sports for schools elsewhere in the nation.
Mason said the state law is "excellent" but a "misunderstanding" by the board resulted in Stan Brockinton II being denied a chance to play this winter.
"It's a little bit of an unusual case," he said.
About 1,400 home-schooled students in Florida, and 30 in Alachua County, play for teams at schools, according to the athletic association.
Brockinton played during his eighth-grade year for The Rock School's winter soccer team. This winter, The Rock did not field a team.
Oak Hall changed its policy in April to allow home-schooled students to play there. The policy allows home-schooled students to play for teams if they wouldn't displace an enrolled student and fit within the school's philosophy, said athletic director Jeff Malloy.
"We're not going to accept a student that was expelled for disciplinary reasons," he said.
Brockinton and four other Leg-A-Z players attempted to play for Oak Hall this year. The association ruled against one student because his mother had direct contact with Benjamin, according to the lawsuit.
Two other players, one who had been home schooled the previous year, enrolled and were allowed to play. Brockinton played one game before the association board overturned the waiver that allowed him and another home-schooled student, who is not part of the lawsuit, to play.
Malloy, a former president of the association, said Oak Hall accepts the decision and understands the rule, but believes it didn't apply to the situation.
"We embrace the rules," he said. "However, in this case, I was convinced we didn't recruit."
Stan Brockinton II is the oldest of four children, all of whom are home schooled. His father said he filed the suit because he wants to keep open athletic opportunities for his other children.
He said he didn't want Stan Brockinton II to play for a Keystone Heights school because of discipline problems there. A home-schooled student is, by definition, choosing a school based on athletics, he said, so it makes no sense to restrict his son from playing for Oak Hall while allowing students who enrolled there to play.
"They've written rules that automatically apply double standards," he said.
As for his son, the boy said he hopes to play soccer at a college level and was disappointed by the decision. Despite not being able to play, he continues to practice the sport.
"I play soccer every day," he said.
Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or email@example.com.
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