Last Updated on July 28, 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, or the California Interscholastic Federation, which controls all high school student sports in California can be very difficult to deal with and interpret (understatement!). One of the more confusing areas is “hardship” and hardship waivers.
Hardship has a simple meaning for reasonable folk, but CIF rules are not reasonable in many areas. What does “hardship” mean for purposes of CIF hardship waivers?
Why Does Hardship and CIF Matter?
Hardship matters when a student transfers schools without physically moving (e.g. to a new home) during high school and they have played sports before.
Usually, per CIF Bylaw 207 B(5)b, if a student transfers without moving, they will get a sit out period (SOP) for varsity sports which they have played (at any level) at the former (or “any other”) school during the last year. But, if the student transfers without moving and can prove they have a CIF-defined HARDSHIP, they may be able to play sports with no SOP. This is why CIF hardship waivers matter to student athletes.
What is a Hardship Under CIF Rule 207?
Okay- logical people might think that parent separation, family financial issues, or just a decision to transfer schools to help a student could support a “hardship.” Unfortunately, no, they can’t. Remember, CIF is not logical.
When a school submits the 510 Transfer Eligibility Form/ “Application for Residential Eligibility” form to CIF, proof of the hardship would have to be provided also.
CIF hardship encompasses *ONLY the following per Bylaw 207 B(5)c.viii:
Hardship Category #1: Court Ordered Transfers
If a student is moved to a new school based on a court order or a child protective order, they may request a hardship waiver and if granted may play varsity sports at the new school. The court order must be provided to CIF.
Hardship Category #2: Children of Divorced Parents
If a student has to switch schools due to a court ordered or court approved divorce agreement, the student may request a hardship waiver and play varsity sports if the hardship request is approved by the CIF commissioner. Any applicable order or agreement must be provided.
Hardship Category #3: Student Safety Incidents
If a student had a documented safety incident at the school where they are transferring from, they may request hardship. They will need to prove that something happened to them with school documents/reports and even a police report if available.
Hardship Category #4: Discontinued Program
If a school has a certain program in which a student is enrolled, it is discontinued, and the student has to switch schools to join the program at another school, they could request a hardship waiver.
This section would apply if a student was, for example, attending JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) and had to move as the program was no longer offered. It is not likely going to apply with e.g. a Journalism class being continued, as classes are discontinued all the time. This CIF hardship category specifically states it must be a program which ends.
Hardship Category #5: Foster or Homeless Students
A student who is declared by a court to be a foster student and has to move can apply for hardship. A student who is homeless, when this is confirmed by a government agency may also apply, but not if they switch schools a second time and stay in the same residence.
Hardship Category #6: Military Status
If a student returns from military status, they can apply for hardship if they reenroll in the same school they attended before, or where their parent or caregiver resides. They cannot be awarded hardship if they were dishonorably discharged.
Hardship Category #7: Married Status
A student who gets married and moves to live with their spouse, may apply for hardship.
Hardship Category #8: Board of Education Ruling
If a student is moved within a school district to another high school, due to an official school board ruling, not based on discipline, they may ask for hardship.
Hardship is Not Appealable
As hardship applications are not appealable with CIF, it is critical that parents and students provide all arguments and relevant documents clearly proving the student qualifies for hardship when the school submits the student 510 transfer application. As, once the student is denied the hardship request, it will be too late.
“All eligibility determinations made by the respective CIF Section office under the provisions of Bylaw 207.B.(5)c. are final as all of these hardship circumstances are factual in nature and can be documented.” [CIF Bylaw 207B(5)d.]
California sports lawyer for students Michelle Ball assists with transfer eligibility, hardship, undue influence and CIF submissions and appeals. As a CIF attorney in Sacramento, Michelle works across the state in places such as Folsom, Placerville, Lodi, Galt, Auburn, Roseville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Riverside, and many other locations.
*based on the 22-23 CIF Bylaws