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Decision Number
Gavin J.
Iowa High School Athletic Association
Full Text

The District seeks reversal of a decision that the IHSAA Board of Control ["Board"] made on August 4, 2016, finding that Gavin, a senior at Roland-Story Community High School is ineligible to compete in varsity interscholastic athletics for 90 consecutive school days under the provisions of the general transfer rule, 281?IAC 36.15(3). Ms. Sweet resides in the Roland-Story Community School District. Ms. Sweet has at all times had legal custody of Gavin. Her former husband, Gavin's father, resides in the Des Moines Public School District. Mr. Jensen also resides in the Roland-Story Community School District. It is undisputed that Gavin was enrolled at a treatment facility for children during the first semester of 9th grade (2013-14 school year). He was then a student at Roland-Story High School from second semester of 9th grade through first semester of his junior year (2015-16 school year). He enrolled for the second semester of his junior year at Southeast Polk High School. Gavin did not participate in sports during his one and only semester at Southeast Polk High School.

In May of 2016, after completing the semester at Southeast Polk High School, Gavin returned to the Roland-Story Community School District. He now resides roughly four nights per week with his maternal grandparents and the other three nights at his mother's residence. Those two residences are very close to each other. This is a new living arrangement for Gavin. Gavin has had a rocky relationship with his step-father, Ms. Sweet's husband. But it would be a grave disservice to Gavin to not hold him responsible for many of his own behaviors, which have caused some of his removals from his mother's residence to medical facilities for adolescents.

To his great credit, Gavin himself did not shift any of the responsibility for his behaviors to anyone else. Although he did not testify, Gavin took his responsibility at this hearing as the Appellant seriously, and presented himself in this hearing in an extraordinarily mature manner that demonstrated that he has clearly moved on from his earlier teenage years. If he takes nothing else from this matter, it is hoped that Gavin holds onto the very good impression he made at the hearing before this administrative tribunal. Before having Gavin move in with his father from his grandfather's home, Ms. Sweet spoke with Steve Schlatter, Roland-Story High School Principal, who informed her that Gavin would be ineligible for sports if he returned to Roland-Story High School from Southeast Polk High School. Mr. Schlatter reportedly did not give any specific timeframe for the length of the ineligibility period.

On or about April 20, 2016, Gavin had what he characterized as a "minor car accident" with a car owned by his father's girlfriend. After this altercation, Gavin's father chose to live with his girlfriend, for the most part leaving Gavin alone at his own residence. There was conflicting information about how Gavin sustained himself. Neither Gavin, his mother, nor his grandfather provided an explanation as to why Gavin stayed at his father's residence alone. Certainly, it made academic sense for him to finish his semester at Southeast Polk, but he could have done that from the Jensens' residence if the situation with his father truly had been dire. No one addressed transportation, but it is noted that Gavin was already not living in the Southeast Polk School District.

When the decision was made that Gavin would return to Roland-Story High School, Ms. Sweet contacted Todd Tharp of the IHSAA to ask for details regarding ineligibility. In conversations with Mr. Tharp, the family was informed that Gavin would be ineligible for 90 school days of varsity competition at Roland-Story upon his return to that high school because none of the exceptions to the transfer rule applied to him.During that hearing, held on July 29, 2016, the Board heard from Gavin, his mother, and Aaron Stensland, head football coach at Roland-Story High School. The family asked that the Board reconsider Mr. Tharp's ruling. The Board concluded that no exceptions applied under which Gavin could qualify for immediate eligibility to participate in varsity athletics.

The Board's decision states in part as follows: Gavin's changes in residence appear to be due to his behavior and at least partially motivated by athletics. His behavior caused his mother to arrange for him to live with his father. There was no legal change in custody made at the time. Gavin testified that his father treated him horribly during the time he resided with him. However, he still remained with his father until the end of the semester. At that time, he returned to Roland to reside with his grandparents, not his mother.The motivation to transfer and enroll in another school need not be related to solely to athletics for the Board to deny eligibility. The Board of Control and Department has [sic] consistently declined to make an exception to the 90 school-day period of ineligibility in cases even where the motivating factor for the transfer was something other than sports.For the foregoing reasons, the decision of the Board of Control of the Iowa High School Athletic Association that Gavin J. is ineligible to compete in varsity interscholastic athletics at Roland-Story High School for a period of 90 consecutive school days is AFFIRMED.