House Bill 1279 aims to place restrictions on investigations by the Florida High School Athletic Association on Florida high school athletes by giving the student athletes a level playing field against investigations, according to a report by the Florida News Service.
"The FHSAA must adopt bylaws regarding the eligibility status of students who are enrolled and assigned to that public school or who transfer from another public school or private school," state documents read. "The bylaws must ensure the student remains eligible as long as the student has complied with enrollment and transfer deadlines, and rule, eligibility, and recruiting violations by a teammate, coach, administrator, school, or adult representative may not be used against a student."
However, FHSAA said the bill would be 'damaging' and 'dangerous' to high school athletics by inadvertently making high school athletes 'free agents.'
According to the Florida News Service, "The legislation (HB 1279) would require the FHSAA to presume a student eligible unless he or she is proven to be ineligible; would change language barring athletes from receiving any benefit from schools to instead prohibit any 'significant benefit' and change the association's investigative procedures."
"This bill does to more level the playing the field between the FHSAA and students and parents" who are the targets of investigations, said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha in an interview with Florida News Service.
To read House Bill 1279 in full, click here.
FHSAA, which represents 798 schools in Florida, released a statement earlier this week about the proposed bill.
“Fairness and playing by the rules would be dealt a damaging blow if this proposed bill becomes a dangerous law. This policy change would jeopardize the integrity of high school athletic competition by creating the equivalent of ‘free agency’ for student-athletes. It would invite the tragic element of cutthroat recruiting to the wholesome world of prep sports. Legislators need to see this for what it is: legitimizing cheating and rewarding rule breakers.
“We support the principle that every student-athlete be given a chance to play – but it should be in a proven system that promotes honor, fair play, character and truthfulness. This legislation will only derail our 93-year track record of promoting fair play and protecting young athletes from unscrupulous, win-at-all-costs recruiters.
"... This legislation takes an unwarranted cheap shot at fair play – it is a frontal assault on the positive tradition of school spirit that exists in Florida’s high schools.”
According to state documents, the bill revises investigative procedures by:
- Requiring an investigation to be completed within 90 days of its onset and limiting contracts or payments to no more than 520 hours per investigation.
- Requiring FHSAA to provide specific notification to the affected student, parent, coach and school within two days of the assignment of an investigation and the results, including recommendations, within 5 business days upon completion of the investigation.
- Requiring investigators to maintain a valid class “C” license as established in Chapter 493.
- Requiring investigators to advise one or more of the parents that they are entitled to accompany the student during interviews.
- Prohibiting investigators from searching residences or other private areas during the investigation.
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