Commissioner of Education denies NJSIAA change to transfer rules


It's back to the drawing board for the NJSIAA on its transfer rules.

The organization spent more than a year working out a new rule that toughened sanctions on student athletes who transfer from one New Jersey high school to another.

But the new rule never saw the light of day.

The new rule, which would have required nearly every student athlete who transferred to sit out 30 days in each varsity sport in which he or she participate, was shot down this week by New Jersey's acting commissioner of education Kim Harrington.

Calling the new transfer rule, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, "over-broad and over-reaching," Harrington denied the change and issued a firm rebuttal of the NJSIAA's rationale for the change to its guidelines for enforcement of transfer eligibility.

"It fails to take into account legitimate reasons for student transfers," Harrington wrote.

Harrington noted that many students transfer because of changes of residence related to "parents' jobs and financial instability" and that the NJSIAA's proposed rule would penalize those students for situations that are "outside their control."

NJSIAA commissioner Steve Timko issued a statement in response to Harrington's ruling, stressing that the organization was not discouraged by the development.

As a result of Harrington's ruling, the exisiting NJSIAA transfer rule will remain in place. The exisiting rule allows for a student athlete who transfers as a result of a "bonafide change of address" to be eligible right away at his or her new school.

Critics of the rule and NJSIAA officials themselves have said that the "bonafide change of address" clause is a loophole that has allowed some students to transfer for athletic advantage without penalty.

The NJSIAA sought to be relieved of the "administrative burden" of evaluating the legitimacy of "bonafide change of address" transfers. But Harrington ruled that the proposed rule would have "alleviated" that burden it would do so "at the expense of students who have not be subject to recruitment or transferred for athletic advantage."

In his statement, Timko expressed a desire to work with Harrington to modify the existing rule.

"While the NJSIAA was eager to have a more enforceable transfer rule, the association remains encouraged and looks forward to working with the Commissioner of Education to develop a solution that discourages transfers fro athletic advantage," Timko said. "Our hope is to meet with the Commissioner as soon as possible to addeess this important issue."

In her ruling, Harrington also mentioned working with the NJSIAA to seek a solution to an issue that some in high school sports circles believe has become a major problem.

"The New Jersey Department of Education is willing to work with the NJSIAA to develop a solution that strikes the appropriate balance between ensuring students who transfer for legitimate reasons can participate in sports immediately, while discouraging those students seeking to transfer for athletic advantage," Harrington wrote.

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