Last Updated on July 13, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
The California Interscholastic Federation, aka CIF, can be a wee bit problematic for high school athletes. CIF rules have so many pitfalls, parents can sometimes find themselves deep in a hole they cannot get out of.
One such trap is pre-enrollment contact with a school BEFORE a student transfers. Such pre-enrollment contact can mean a student cannot play sports at their new school for a year after transfer.
When Does Pre-Enrollment Contact Matter?
Pre-enrollment contact only becomes an issue if a student is transferring schools and is within CIF’s jurisdiction (e.g. high school).
What is Pre-Enrollment Contact as Defined by CIF
Pre-enrollment contact has a very broad meaning for a student athlete.
Here is the masterful way (not really) CIF defines pre-enrollment contact in Bylaw 510D:
Pre-enrollment contact may include, but is not limited to: any communication of any kind, directly or indirectly, with the student, parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver, relatives, or friends of the student about the athletic programs at a school; orientation/information programs, shadowing programs; attendance at outside athletic or similar events by anyone associated…with the school to observe the student; participation by the student in programs supervised by the school or its associates before enrollment in the school.
Who Can’t Be Communicated With? People You Would Never Suspect
The CIF no pre-enrollment contact rule prohibits communication with anyone who represents or is connected with the school, now or in the past, where the student will be transferring. The prohibition is ridiculously overbroad and covers people no parent could reasonably be expected to know are associated with the new school.
CIF Bylaw 510 D2 says:
Definition of Being Associated with a School
Persons associated with a school include, but are not limited to: current or former coaches, current or former athletes, parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver of current or former student/athletes, booster club members, alumni, spouses or relatives of coaches, teachers and other employees, coaches who become employed, active applicants for coaching positions, and persons who are employed by companies or organizations that have donated athletic supplies, equipment or apparel to that school.
Would any parent know who all these people are, for a school where the student has not attended in the past?
This includes the janitor of the school, former athletes of the school, relatives of coaches at the school such as the coach’s Great Aunt Gertrude, people who are applying to be coaches, employees of companies that donate to the school….????!!!!! HOW would any parent know who these people are? CIF expects you to know this and if you talk to these unknown people, you could be making pre-enrollment contact.
This is a ridiculously wrong bylaw.
Communication Which Can Trigger Pre-Enrollment Contact
Per CIF Bylaw 510C, ANY, any, any, communication can trigger an allegation of pre-enrollment contact. The contact may be intentional or unintentional, direct or not so direct, and can occur even without someone knowing they are making pre-enrollment contact.
You know that person you chatted with while waiting in line at the local fast food restaurant about that local school team? If they turn out to work for a company who donates sports equipment to the school the student is transferring to, bantering with them may break the pre-enrollment contact rule.
You know that clerk at the grocery store who also works as a teacher at the new school? Don’t be discussing the new school with her, or this may be argued to be pre-enrollment contact per CIF.
Did you thumbs up someone’s sports post that works at the new school? Could this potentially be construed by CIF as pre-enrollment contact….? Maybe.
The rule covers far too many people, and far too many unintended communications.
Pre-Enrollment Contact Can Happen Anywhere
Needless to say, this pre-enrollment contact can occur anywhere, at anytime. The contact does not have to be with a staff member at the new school or new school district. It can occur walking down the street or at a neighbor’s barbecue.
Pre-enrollment contact can also occur if the student attended an orientation at the new school, an athletic event there, or if a coach from that school came to check the student out at a game.
Anyone in the student’s family can trigger this CIF allegation, and even the student’s friends can inadvertently trigger it. This means that a friend can talk to a coach at the new school, and this could be pre-enrollment contact… ugh.
Does the Communication Have To Be Athletically Oriented To Count?
This is an unknown. Bylaw 510 unfortunately conflicts with itself.
In 510C, it says that
Pre-enrollment contact OR an athletically motivated transfer may be considered prima facie (sufficient evidence) evidence… [caps and bolding added]
But below that, it says:
Athletically motivated pre-enrollment contact of any kind by anyone from, or associated with… a school or its athletic programs to which a student may transfer or move into the attendance area is not permitted…” [bolding added]
These conflict with each other…. so I don’t know the answer.
With CIF I would err on the side of caution and make no pre-enrollment contact of any kind.
What Happens If the Student Athlete or Family Make Pre-Enrollment Contact?
Bad things happen if pre-enrollment contact is found by CIF.
If it is found that a parent called the new school secretary to ask how many kids are on the football team before enrolling, or a teacher invited the family to move to the district, the student athlete could conceivably be BANNED FROM PLAYING CERTAIN SPORTS FOR ONE YEAR. The new school can face negative sports impacts as well.
Students, friends, families…. beware.
Michelle Ball is an attorney for students helping them navigate CIF issues. As a Sacramento California lawyer, she can assist in locations, such as Modesto, Tahoe, Roseville, Lodi, Woodland, Riverside, Santa Clarita, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many more.