Florida bills create ‘free agency’ concerns in schools

February 1, 2016 /
Schools in Florida are concerned that bills advancing through the House and Senate could lead to a “free agency” system in high school sports.

FHSAAIn January, legislators proposed three bills that could change high school sports across the state. Among the changes is a provision that gives families more freedom to move their children from one school to another with no penalties. As it currently stands, student-athlete transfers could be required to sit out a year or prohibited from transferring all together if they don’t live in the school’s district.

From The Associated Press:

“If students attend a school they should have a chance to immediately participate in athletics like they do band, drama and other extracurricular activities,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, who is one of the sponsors of the Senate bill. “You might have a school where everyone is a star player and my kid is so-so and wants to go where they have an opportunity to play.”

Athletes would be ineligible if they are suspended from another school or do not have a minimum grade-point average.

The Senate bill does have the backing of the Florida High School Athletic Association, but only because it has penalties for schools that commit recruiting violations, from $5,000 to revoking a teacher’s license for a third offense.

Home-schooled students and those attending charter or private schools where sports aren’t offered could pick any public school for athletics. Currently, they can play only at the public school in their home district.

The legislation isn’t necessarily intended to give student-athletes complete freedom in choosing their athletic program, but surely there will be those who take advantage of the system. That’s largely where the debate stems from, but legislators are doing their best to alleviate those concerns.

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