As the result of a recently discovered Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association(OSSAA) rule violation, the Broken Arrow Public School district has imposed a number of sanctions against itself and the staff of its athletic department.
"The discovered violation involves only a student-athlete who repeated the 8th grade," said Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Chuck Perry, who oversees athletics. "It was discovered that the student in question, who was a senior in the 2012-2013 school year, repeated his eighth grade year in 2008-2009 and participated in athletics in the repeated year. Such participation in the repeated year should not have occurred and that event was not properly documented by our staff."
Under OSSAA rules, when a student repeats his 7th or 8th grade years the student must sit out during the repeated year.
"Our staff did not properly inquire as to the conflicting responses that were recorded on the student's various years' eligibility forms, and therefore, the student did not sit out a year as required by OSSAA rules or obtain a hardship waiver from the OSSAA," Perry said. "By not sitting out a year in middle school, the student was effectively ineligible during his senior year."
District officials became aware of the potential infraction in June 2013, and they immediately notified the OSSAA and began an internal investigation of district athletic records and processes. An internal audit of all current student athletes in grades 9-12 confirmed the rule violation by the student in question, but no other rule violations were discovered among the district's more than 1,400 student athletes who participated in the 2012-2013 school year. The student in question was a senior during the 2012-2013 school year, and participated in both football and track and field.
As part of the self-imposed penalties, the district's football and track and field programs will be on "warning" status for the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, the district will forfeit two 2012 season football games and five track meets from the 2012-2013 season. The athletic department will immediately implement several new compliance processes to improve the tracking of student athlete eligibility, and comprehensive training on the OSSAA's rules will be conducted for all coaches on an annual basis. An electronic database will be used to monitor the documentation required for student athletes, and all documentation will be retained throughout the student's 7-12 grade years, plus one year beyond graduation. In addition to these changes in processes, several athletic department staffing changes have been made as a result of the internal investigation.
"We should always seek to improve our processes throughout the district, but it is unfortunate that these process improvements and staff promotions must be made as the result of a violation," said Broken Arrow Public School Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall. "I appreciate the support of the officials at the OSSAA, and while I am not at all pleased with this situation, I believe we have arrived at a fair and proper solution that does not unfairly penalize students for the mistakes made by adults."
Although district officials self-reported the identified infraction and have already self-imposed the specified sanctions, the OSSAA Board of Directors will meet on Sept. 11, 2013, to take action to accept the penalties as assessed and/or impose additional penalties.
"We've identified the error, taken appropriate personnel actions for those who were involved and established compliance processes to ensure we do not repeat this mistake," said Mendenhall. "I am hopeful that the OSSAA Board will find our strong actions, coupled with our complete cooperation and full disclosures, to be sufficient to avoid any additional penalties, but the final decision is theirs to make. Coaches, administrators, and athletes are role models, and taking personal responsibility for mistakes is exactly the sort of behavior we need to be modeling. I am proud to be a Broken Arrow Tiger, and I am pleased to work in a district that confronts and corrects its mistakes. "