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Private, charter schools win suit

Private, charter schools win suit

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A Richland County judge has ruled in favor of Bishop England High School, Oceanside Collegiate Academy and other private and charter schools in their lawsuit against the S.C. High School League.

Judge Jocelyn Newman on Monday granted the plaintiff schools’ request for a temporary injunction that will delay enforcement of new SCHSL rules regarding athletic eligibility and transfers at private and charter schools in the High School League, set to go into effect on July 1.

SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton said Monday he plans to meet with the league’s attorney Tuesday to discuss their next steps, including a possible appeal.

In May, 12 private and charter schools argued they were unfairly targeted by the new rules and filed suit, seeking a temporary injunction.

“Plaintiffs have properly established that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, that they will likely succeed on the merits of the litigation, and that no adequate remedy at law exists. This Court, having exercised its discretion, finds that injunctive relief is proper,” Newman wrote in her decision.

At issue in the suit were new amendments passed by the SCHSL legislative assembly earlier this year seeking to address perceived competitive imbalance.

The High School League includes 206 members, including 21 public charter schools and four private schools. In South Carolina, charter, magnet and private schools won 42 of 57 state titles (74 percent) from 2017-19 at the Class AA and A levels, despite making up less than 20 percent of the schools in those divisions.

“Over the past several years, competitive balance has been one of the biggest concerns around the state, especially for the Class A, AA, and AAA schools,” said Rock Hill principal Ozzie Ahl, who introduced the new amendments in March. “The A, AA and AAA schools have been the ones most affected by the private and charter athletic schools.”

Under one new rule, most students transferring from a traditional school to a private or charter school would have to sit out a year before gaining athletic eligibility. Under another new rule, incoming ninth-graders who enroll at a charter or private school, but live outside of that school’s assigned attendance zone, would have to sit out a year of athletic competition.

Those new rules are now delayed by the temporary injunction.

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