Oklahoma’s Attorney General has called for a halt to consideration of individual playoff brackets for private high schools as the debate over the balance of competitiveness continues.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued a cease and desist letter to the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Activities and Executive Director David Jackson on March 10 in response to the recent discussion of Rule 14. , slamming private schools into larger classifications based on their sports success, or forming a new postseason bracket for private schools.
Drummond aimed to shut down the second option.
Following notice of the impending suspension notice at Wednesday’s board meeting, the board entered the executive meeting and voted to submit a Rule 14 decision for the April board meeting.
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What does AG Gentner Drummond’s letter say?
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oklahoman received a copy of Drummond’s letter.
“This office recognizes that the Oklahoma Secondary School Activity Association (“OSSAA”) sends ballots to member schools to ensure that member nonpublic schools compete with similarly situated member public schools in the OSSAA football playoffs. I was informed that I will decide whether to ban said Drummond in a letter. “As Chief Legal Officer of the State, I request that the OSSAA cease and desist from any action in furtherance of this proposal for the reasons set out below.”
At OSSAA’s February board meeting, Jackson reported the results of a survey sent to member schools. About 75% of members responded, and 85% of those voters supported separate playoff brackets for private and public schools in all sports activities, he said.
In his letter, Drummond said the proposal for separate brackets would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which is intended to prevent discrimination.
Drummond conceded that private schools do not fall into one of the “questionable categories” that have historically faced discrimination. This proposal has nothing to do with race, national origin, gender, or fundamental rights. Instead, he points to the rationale test, stating that “government actions must be ‘reasonably related to legitimate government purposes or purposes,'” citing a 2007 case law. Did. Christian Heritage Academy vs. Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
The case, after Christian Heritage, a private school, was twice denied membership in OSSAA, filed a federal lawsuit and a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of CHA, giving the school reasonable grounds to exclude it from OSSAA. It happened when I couldn’t find the basis.
Drummond noted in its opinion that the 10th Circuit recognizes several valid reasons for the government to treat private and public schools differently, including “maintaining a level playing field.” said.
Rule 14 is about competitive fairness, but Drummond said the alternative bracket proposal and its basis were “totally disconnected from possible state interests and not based on fact.” . He said the proposal only pertains to the postseason, not his regular season, and “implicitly acknowledges that the OSSAA’s goal is not to ‘maintain a level playing field’.” said.
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What’s next for OSSAA?
Wednesday’s agenda included Rule 14 as an item in the public portion of the meeting.
However, the Board has elected to discuss it privately in conjunction with the executive session agenda on staff contracts listed.
While members of the board deliberated in the boardroom, the lobby was filled with high school administrators, many from private schools, waiting to hear a decision on Rule 14. A bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives aimed to create a separate playoff bracket for private schools.
After about two and a half hours, the Board reopened the meeting room and voted to propose this agenda item.
“You can’t get into a particular discussion from an executive session,” Jackson said. “I felt like I wanted to be a little more informed and discuss it further at another board meeting, so getting more information is important to making the best decisions.”
Jackson added that letters of cancellation will be published to member schools.
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Other Notes from Wednesday’s OSSAA Board Meeting
The OSSAA Board has approved the hiring of Trinity Johnson as an Assistant Director. Johnson, the assistant superintendent of Piedmont Public Schools, plans to keep the number of OSSAA directors in balance after associate his director Mike Whaley retires on his July 31st retirement.
Whaley’s OSSAA career ends with national honors. He was selected to receive the National Association of State High Schools Commendation Award this summer.
The Board voted to promote Jenks’ Dr. Stacey Butterfield from Vice Chancellor to Chancellor for the 2023-24 academic year. She will replace Rex Trent at Binger-Oney. The board then decided to name Okean’s Mike Jinkens as his vice president for 2023-24.