They tried gentle persuasion. They tried fact-filled recitations of financial hardship. They tried emotional appeals.
Now, thanks to a couple of local lawmakers, Evans High School and its athletic boosters get some legislative muscle in their quest for relief from the worst competitive travel schedule in the state.
As players for the areas largest high school, Evans athletes are forced to travel more than 200 miles for single games. The schools pleas to the Georgia High School Association largely fell on deaf ears; the only thread of hope came when its fellow competitors helped combine or trim a few games for region competition.
What Evans really needed was an isolation rule, which would have allowed any individual school far away from similar-sized competitors to drop back in classification and play against closer - and smaller - teams.
GHSA members turned them down flat. They dont care about student athletes being forced to travel hundreds of miles, or having to miss school and sleep time because Evans regional competitors are clustered south of Atlanta.
What the GHSA schools care about is athletic victory. They were afraid that if Evans got an exemption and was allowed to play smaller schools, those teams could lose games to the Knights - and winning, it seems, is all that matters.
Just when the school was resigned to continuing the long bus trips, though, local lawmakers have come to the rescue. Theyve introduced a bill to remind the GHSA that student-athletes are students first: It requires the GHSA to grant isolation status to far-flung schools - or lose all state funding.
At some point, all this traveling, all these students coming in late at night is going to affect academics, says state Rep. Ben Harbin, who sponsors the bill along with state Rep. Bill Jackson. The purpose of the school is to teach, its to educate. Athletics are important, but we dont need them to start negatively affecting education.
The mere existence of this legislation is a tremendous moral victory for Evans, which found out the hard way that the GHSA answers to no one but itself in staging high school competition. Local officials, in fact, were somewhat startled to learn that the state school board has no control over the GHSA - even though the agency has enormous influence over every public high school in the state.
Harbins and Jacksons bill would restore some of that control, even if it is only in one specific circumstance. Parallel to the effort should be a thorough review of the GHSAs authority - especially at a time when increased focus on accountability requires every school in the state to answer for its academic efforts. Anything that potentially interferes with those tasks should at least have oversight by state education officials.
The GHSA ignored Evans sincere requests for assistance. Lets see how quickly it responds to a direct challenge from the Legislature.
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