Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) has many restrictions, rules, and requirements for high school athletes. But, what about a student transfer before high school, such as during or at the end of eighth grade, technically before high school? Does that matter or count as a transfer for CIF?
CIF Jurisdiction Starts In Ninth Grade
CIF’s jurisdiction starts when a student enters school AFTER eighth grade. CIF has jurisdiction only over high school athletics, which start in ninth grade.
When Does Enrollment Start for CIF?
Per CIF bylaws, a student is enrolled in a school once they are “entered” in a school full time and “in attendance” OR when the student participated in summer practices for a fall sport (such as football).
So, theoretically enrollment can start before actual classes begin in ninth grade.
Bylaw 201b. states:
b. Students will be considered enrolled in a school for purposes of participation in interscholastic athletics… when they have:
(i) Been entered as a full‐time student [20 units or equivalent in a non‐traditional program…] in attendance in classes at that school.
(ii) Participated in a Fall sport when the tryouts and/or practices of that team begin before classes at the school begin in the Fall. Such a student will be considered to be enrolled during that practice time as long as they have registered for, and are enrolled, as a full-time student for the Fall semester of that school year…
These are not the clearest definitions, particularly the first one, but CIF is not the best writer of clear rules.
Eight Semester Rule “Enrollment” Definition Conflicts?
In traditional CIF form, CIF conflicts with themselves elsewhere on enrollment.
Students are allowed to compete for only eight consecutive school semesters. CIF bylaw 204 states that the first semester of these eight semesters begins after a student attends fifteen days or competes in a sports contest for a school. Hmmmm.
This certainly presents a conundrum, so probably, parents should go with the earliest date possible. Then, enrollment could start in alignment with bylaw 201: once a student starts practicing with a team in the summer or is entered and attends school.
Transfers Before Starting High School
CIF does not seem to care about transfers before high school. These transfers before ninth grade should not count as “transfers” under CIF transfer rules, should the student transfer later in their high school career. In other words, a transfer in eighth grade should not mean a transfer in eleventh grade is a “second” transfer.
Be Careful How the District Enrolls the Student
If a student will change schools in their own district early in ninth grade, depending on how the process is done, there may be CIF issues created. Parents need to be careful.
For example, say a student’s school of residence is School One, but the student will attend School Two on an intradistrict transfer. If the school district registers the student in School One and school starts, per CIF rules, this is an enrollment. Then, if the school district transfers the student to School Two a few days after School One starts, this may count as a first transfer under CIF rules.
So, even if the parent never intended the student to attend School One, or the student didn’t set foot in School One while awaiting the transfer, CIF may consider this and count the early move as a “transfer.”
This discrepancy can become significant later if the student changes schools again. If the student moves to School Three, the student may incur a one year ban from sports due to a second transfer!
The handling for this is just for the student to start at School Two and not to enroll in School One first.
Some School Districts May Have Harsher Rules Than CIF
Regardless of CIF rules, I have seen a school district create their own rules on eighth grade transfers. This school district counted eighth grade transfers as first transfers in their district sports policies. They restricted student athletes who moved.
In this situation, even if CIF were fine with an eighth grader transferring, school district rules limited the student from playing due to the transfer.
As such, parents should always check the local school district policies before undertaking any transfer, to try to figure out sports impacts.
Student attorney and advocate Michelle Ball assists with CIF issues across California. From her office in Sacramento, she can extend to Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, while helping as well in Roseville, Folsom, Citrus Heights.