The Appellant seeks reversal of a decision that the IGHSAU Board of Directors made as a result of a hearing before it on October 19, 2016, finding that West Delaware High School student Sarah M. is ineligible to compete in varsity interscholastic athletics for 90 consecutive school days under the general transfer rule, 281?IAC 36.15(3). Sarah M. is a senior at West Delaware High School. This present school year, 2016-17, is her first year of attendance at West Delaware. The previous three school years she was a student at Independence High School. Sarah was enrolled at West Delaware High in August of 2016 after she and her father, David M., moved into a rented lower level of a house in Manchester, Delaware County, a community within the West Delaware School District.
The timing of events is clear, but not particularly enlightening.In late 2015, David's mother suffered a stroke, dying the next February. This undoubtedly put great strain on the marriage and the family. (David M. Testimony)? Independence School District Superintendent Jean Peterson noted that Sarah's parents separated and lived apart from each other "[d]uring the late spring and early summer of 2016." (Exhibit I)? The lease for the Manchester premises is dated August 1, 2016, but effective August 15, 2016. (Exhibit C) The letter provided by David's landlords notes that they first talked to David about leasing the lower level of their residence to him on July 24, 2016. (Exhibit L)? David and Sarah acquired their new driver's licenses, and David his new voter registration, on August 17, 2016. (Exhibits D, E, & F)? The No Contact Order protecting David from Lee Hunter Frank was issued August 25, 2016. (Exhibit H)
The above-mentioned No Contact Order recites that Mr. Frank, age 80 years, was earlier convicted of harassment in the 3rd degree, and that he poses a threat to the safety of David. David moved to get away from Mr. Frank, but also for personal reasons related to his marriage. It is uncontested that no court action has been commenced either for separate maintenance, dissolution of marriage, or any custody or child support issues.Upon learning that her father was going to move out of the family residence and that her brothers were choosing to stay with their mother, Sarah made the decision to move with her father. On September 12 2016, IGHSAU management issued a decision that Sarah was ineligible for varsity level competition in interscholastic sports at West Delaware High for the first 90 days of the present school year. In a letter to David M., IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger noted that the family maintains two residences, and that Sarah's move with her father was not pursuant to any court order. At hearing, Ms. Berger explained further that the IGHSAU and its Board based its decision on the totality of the following circumstances:? There is no court order by which Sarah's change in residency was accomplished.? The family maintains two separate residences; the rental unit occupied by David and Sarah is furnished.? David and Sarah reside close enough to Independence that Sarah could have continued with her senior year at Independence High School, where she would continue to be eligible despite living in Manchester because she would not be a transfer student if she maintained her enrollment at Independence High School.? David continues to work for the Independence School District. Sarah could commute with her father.
The Appellant's position is that Sarah is living with one of her parents as a result of separation or other change in her parents' marital relationship, and that those circumstances are not required to be formalized by a court order. David M. reads the clause, "or pursuant to other court-ordered decree or order of custody" as another option within exception 281?IAC 36.15(3)"a"(4)8.
The Appellant misinterprets the rule. By its plain language, the clause regarding a court-ordered decree or order of custody expands the reasons for a court order to justify immediate eligibility. A separation of parents without a court order is not contemplated by the rule. As noted by the Department in Riley v. Iowa High School Athletic Association, 25 D.o.E. App. Dec. 216 (2010), any other interpretation "makes a mockery of the reason that transfer rules have been created." 25 D.o.E. App. Dec. 216 at 222. Because David testified that his move was also motivated by the No Contact Order, it is noted that such order was issued one month after David talked to his present landlords about a lease, nine days after Mr. Luce contacted the IGHSAU office, and a few days after David and Sarah actually moved to Manchester. This confusing sequence is mentioned solely for the purpose of emphasizing that rule 281?IAC 36.15(3)"a"(4)8 must be bolstered by a court order regarding separation, divorce, or custody to avoid the appearance of any transfers motivated by school or athletics.
For the foregoing reasons, the October 19, 2016 decision of the Board of Directors of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union that Sarah M. is ineligible to compete in varsity interscholastic athletics at West Delaware High School for a period of 90 consecutive school days is AFFIRMED.