Jim Hart: Establish due process for student athletes


Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.

The time has come for parents all across Florida to make more noise than the Florida High School Athletic Association when it comes to protecting our student athletes and children from abusive and, more than often, prejudiced investigations.

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Students, with only a limited window of four years of eligibility, have had to sit out for full academic years because of an ongoing investigation, which can certainly be resolved in only three months’ time.

For years, the FHSAA has turned their opposition to change into successful spin that their main goal is to instill fairness and protect the integrity of high school athletics. But the real story here is about an organization that has instilled fear and has bullied the very children we are trying to teach to be strong for themselves and be kind to others. Parents with complaints of intimidation, biased questioning and unwarranted assumptions of guilt continue to see their complaints go unanswered or even ignored.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Larry Metz have filed legislation this year to make sure the FHSAA treats our student athletes as innocent until proven guilty. A basic right by most adults, so why do we need to have a legislative battle to make sure our children get this same right?

This year's proposed changes seem basic and logical, so much so, that it is a wonder how they were not made a long time ago. Allowing more independent board members to be appointed and allowing for appeals to be heard by an independent administrative law judge are basic protections and provide for a necessary system of checks and balances that the FHSAA should readily get behind.

This isn't about local versus state control or about an organization that thinks that just because this is the way they have always conducted themselves for years they should be able to continue. This is about making sure fairness and due process is shown and applied to our children, and if legislative action is needed to do this, then we should all support the proposal sponsored by Stargel and Metz, and thank them for taking on this much-needed fight.

The FHSAA says they intend to make their voice heard on this legislation, and I encourage all parents in Florida to make their voices heard too. It is time to put what is best for our children before the power the FHSAA wants to desperately hold on to.

Jim Hart is chairman of Floridians for Government Accountability, Inc.

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