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Continued: Students, families push legal limits to be eligible for prep sports

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 25, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Armstrong said that the episode was were stressful, causing him to sift through the reasons Racer left Apple Valley.

It “seemed like as every day went by, there were more and more layers,” said Armstrong. “You have to be talking to lawyers, and you have to be dealing with the high school league and parents.” People were saying, “We need a decision, we need it now,” said Armstrong.

Challenging rules

With so much at stake, some parents have challenged the authority of the MSHSL.

One vivid example came in 2012 when the parents of a hockey player filed a federal lawsuit against the MSHSL — which the parents won. The suit came after league officials attempted to block the athlete’s eligibility after the family argued it was switching schools because a new school offered a broader array of college-prep classes.

In that case, the MSHSL ruled the athlete ineligible for one year even though officials at the Academy of Holy Angels and Lakeville North — the school he left and the one he transferred to, respectively — supported the family. The family also hired the dean of a business school to provide an expert opinion of the two schools’ college-prep business classes.

League officials argued that ruling for the athlete “would undermine its control” over the interpretation of MSHSL bylaws and “create administrative burdens” because the league would have to hold hearings “anytime a student sought to transfer to a school with a different slate of advanced course offerings.”

Despite the league’s arguments, a federal judge in November 2012 ruled in favor of the family and granted them a preliminary injunction. Nine days later, the league and the family settled the case, allowing the athlete to be “fully eligible to participate in varsity athletics.”


Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388

  • related content

  • The Achiever Academy girls’ hockey team withdrew from the section hockey tournament earlier this month after questions were raised about the eligibility of some players. The Aces had reached the section final.

  • from the handbook

    Bylaw 111 focuses on student-athlete eligibility upon a school transfer and it’s one of the longest entries in the Minnesota State High School League handbook. The highlights:

    • MSHSL member schools make most eligibility decisions. For instance, eligibility for a student without family residence established in that school district initially would be a school district decision.

    • How a transfer student can be eligible for varsity competition:

    • The student transfers from one public school district to another with a change of residence and occupancy by the student’s parents.

    • A student of divorced parents with joint custody who moves from one custodial parent to the other custodial parent shall be fully eligible at the time of the move. The student may utilize this provision only one time during grades 9-12. The new residence cannot be located in the same public school attendance area as the previous residence.

    • If a student moves with his parents to Minnesota, the student shall be eligible at the first school the student attends in Minnesota.

    • If none of the provisions are met, the student is ineligible for varsity competition for one calendar year beginning with the first day at the new school. Students are immediately eligible for non-varsity competition.

    • The provisions of Bylaw 111 are not applied to a student until he or she attends the 9th grade for the first time. If a student in the 7th or 8th grade moves into Minnesota the MSHSL rules do not require the establishment of a family residence in Minnesota.

    More: For the full text of Bylaw 111 go to

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