Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) group controls all California sports at the high school level. However, this is not some “nice” or “pleasant” control; rather CIF tends to apply their rules in an inflexible manner, often with limited or even no appeal right. This can be very harsh and punitive to students who switch high schools.
Unfortunately, a student can be banned from playing at their new school for the mere fact they transferred, were recently disciplined, know a person at the new school who used to coach them, are accused of lying or being disgruntled, and for many other reasons.
A CIF refusal to allow a student to play at the new school in many cases is not appealable. Yet, a parent may have no idea what a denial of “transfer eligibility” means when their child enters the new school. Not knowing anything about the harshness to come, parents may trust the new school staff (e.g. a new Coach/Athletic Director) who do not know their child or their situation, to competently convey to CIF the reason the child should be able to play varsity sports at the new school.
The new Coach will draft and submit (usually without parental input and/or without guiding the parent properly on the seriousness of the submission) a document to CIF called Form 510, the “Application For Residential Eligibility” also known as the Transfer Eligibility Form with inadequate information. However, the CIF Commissioner upon receipt, will “investigate” and usually base their entire decision on talks with the coaches at the former school, what the Transfer Eligibility Form says, and any attachments from the Coach. Usually the parent has no idea what a Transfer Eligibility Form is and if they are asked to give input to the new Coach prior to him/her submitting the form, the parent has little idea of the valid bases which must be demonstrated for their child to play varsity sports at the new school.
A month later, when the parent hears that their child cannot play varsity sports at their new school, and that they are out for a year or extended time, there may be no appeal and they could be OUT OF LUCK, to their shock and dismay. If they do have an appeal right (limited cases) they would need to pursue that process.
As many Transfer Eligibility determinations have no appeal right (including hardship), it is absolutely critical that parents learn about the Transfer Eligibility Form and submit adequate arguments and documentary support with this form when it is given to CIF.
Some examples of items that could be useful as attachments to the Transfer Eligibility Form include, as relevant:
1) Document outlining the bases on which the child should be allowed to play sports on an unlimited and/or limited basis.
2) Parent declarations (sworn statements) outlining key facts
3) Student declaration outlining key facts
4) School documents proving a “hardship” (see CIF Bylaw 207B5c)
5) Police reports
6) Divorce documents/court orders
7) Proof of marriage
8) Board of Education rulings/school correspondence
9) History of past teams/coaches versus new coaches
10) Administrative/school records
11) Other documents which may prove student should be able to compete
This is a huge topic. This article only brushes the surface. I cannot emphasize enough that parents of students playing high school sports and thinking about transferring their child from one school to another FOR ANY REASON, if the student wants to play varsity sports at the new school, MUST MUST MUST prepare their transfer arguments and work with the Coach at the new school to prepare a very good and detailed document to accompany the Transfer Eligibility Form. It is absolutely critical.
Otherwise, it may be too late before a parent realizes that they can no longer do anything but return to the prior school if they want their child to play varsity sports. This can present a severe strain on the child and family, particularly if they are being scouted, depend on sports for motivation, or may need a scholarship for college. It is terrible to not be able to play sports just because you chose to change schools and even more terrible to be denied the ability to play for a short or long period of time just because the new Coach did not communicate the situation adequately to CIF. CIF is not a group to go lightly on kids, and they won’t go lightly here, unfortunately.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.