Legislative committee discusses MSHSAA investigation

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JEFFERSON CITY - The House Interim Committee on Missouri High School Activities Association met Wednesday to debate whether the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) had fixed inconsistencies in eligibility and made improvements in safety in the past eight years.

In 2007, the committee investigated MSHSAA and its practices. Since then, MSHSAA tried implementing more rules and regulations to ensure high school athletics are well organized, safe and most importantly promote academic success.

The House committee brought up several questions and inconsistencies they said the MSHSAA failed to address.

The four main points discussed were athlete safety, a high school accreditation, transfer athlete's eligibility and athletics for home-schooled children.

To ensure athlete safety the MSHSAA has adopted a form of catastrophic insurance which protects the students in an event that an accident occurs while under the school's supervision. The coverage provides high-limit lifetime benefits for disabling injury victims. The cost of this insurance is relatively low and is paid by individual MSHSAA member high schools. 

Next, the House of Representatives called into question how the MSHSAA accredits high schools for athletic eligibility.

MSHSAA explained public schools are accredited. It's the non-public schools, private schools and religiously affiliated schools, that must be accredited by a third party organization to join MSHSAA. The MSHSAA followed by saying that process is largely out of their hands.

Transfer students' eligibility was a hot topic of debate Wednesday.

Once a student involved in athletics, leaves a school for another high school his previous school, the "sending" school has a chance to categorize the individual's transfer. The "sending" school can deem that they believe the student is transferring for athletic purposes. If the "sending" school files a report to MSHSAA stating the transfer student left for athletic reasons, that student would be ineligible to play any sport for an entire year.

The "receiving" school is able to challenge whether or not it's solely for athletics in front of an appeals committee. During the committee both high schools are invited to present their cases respectively.

Another major topic of debate was whether home-schooled individuals deserve the right to participate in high school athletics.

As of now, the MSHSAA has no way of accrediting home schooled children to allow them to participate in high school athletics.

The House committee questioned whether or not it was right to deny these children the opportunity to play high school sports. No decision had been made on that issue.

House Representative Chair Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff said, "Everyone needs to understand academics is first and foremost."

The committee meeting is scheduled to resume Thursday.