Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed an education bill into law April 14, which will allow kids to attend any public school—even schools they aren’t zoned for—as long as the school is not at full capacity.
For students who play a Florida High School Athletic Association, or FHSAA, sport at one school, this section of the bill comes with a catch: students who transfer cannot play that same sport at their new school during the same season.
Kyle Niblett, spokesman for the FHSAA, said even if a family moves, either across the state or across the district, they will not meet the exemption criteria.
Niblett said there are some exemptions that would allow athletes to play around the rule, including if the student’s family is in the military and has to relocate or if the student’s parents go through divorce and one parent gets custody or adoption.
“Human rights type of deals where you are trying to look out for the student athlete,” he said.
This new law is different from the current law because it restricts high schoolers who are looking to transfer teams from playing that same sport at another school during the sport’s season. This means a student who played soccer for his or her team in Miami and moves would not be eligible to play for the new high school’s team in the next neighborhood or the next county during that same season.
“This was one of those unintended consequences of the new law,” said Niblett.
The changes were made to stop sports teams from recruiting students with the open enrollment clause, which allows students to attend the schools of their choice.
Under this new law, students will still be allowed to transfer schools, but it takes away their ability to play an FHSAA sport at their new school during the same season.
However, students wishing to transfer that did not play a sport at their previous school, can now play immediately, even mid-season, at their new school – whereas before, they had to wait until a new season began.
The FHSAA guidelines are one piece of the education bill, which includes other topics such as allowing private schools to join the sports conference on an individual basis, as well as funding for charter schools.
“Keep in mind that you’re talking about a 160 page law that was passed in pretty much the final day of the session,” Jackie Johnson, spokeswoman for Alachua County Public Schools. “The state is going to have to give us guidance on how to implement this law.”
Johnson questions the definition of capacity for schools in Alachua County. The state has not defined how capacity fits with class size amendments.
Analysis of the law is still in the early stages, according to Alix Miller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education. The state will use analysis to plan for how the law should be implemented into school districts across Florida.