OHSAA Member Schools Pass 12 of 13 Referendum Items

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio High School Athletic Association member schools passed 12 of 13 proposed revisions to the OHSAA Constitution and Bylaws, Executive Director Doug Ute announced Tuesday. The OHSAA’s annual referendum voting period ended at 4 p.m. Monday. Each member school has one vote on each item, which is cast by the high school principal. Once again, nearly every school completed its voting obligation as required by Constitution Article 8-1-9, with 814 of the OHSAA’s 818 member high schools casting their ballot.

Issue 1B, which would have permitted a student enrolled at a public school that does not sponsor a team sport to potentially play that sport at a public school located in a bordering public school district, failed for a second consecutive year by a margin of 427 to 374 (13 abstained). The margin was significantly greater than the 2022 vote which failed by 13 votes (406 to 393), the closest vote in documented OHSAA history.

“Last year, the conversation was dominated by the NIL proposal, which didn’t pass and had no momentum or requests to return to the referendum ballot this year,” OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said. “With that topic on hold, Issue 1B was the primary focus this year and our office worked diligently to listen to our schools after last year’s close vote and tweak the proposed language to add additional safeguards and ease some concerns. We are pleased with the dialogue and discussions which took place during this voting period.”

All 13 issues were placed on the ballot per the approval of the OHSAA Board of Directors. More information about this year’s referendum issues, regional update meetings and complete results of the voting are available at https://www.ohsaa.org/School-Resources/referendum-voting.

The approved Bylaw and Constitution changes will go into effect August 1, unless noted otherwise. A simple majority of votes cast by member school principals is required for a proposed amendment to be adopted. Each member school has one vote.

In addition to voting for the referendum issues, member school principals had the opportunity to vote for representatives to fill expiring positions on their respective OHSAA District Athletic Boards, with terms beginning August 1, 2023. The district athletic board election results can be found at: https://www.ohsaa.org/about/districtboards

Review of the 2023 Referendum Issues

ISSUE 1C – MODIFY CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 6-1-9 (COVID RULE)

This Constitution Article 6-1-9 was implemented during the spring of 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic and gave the Executive Director’s Office the ability to suspend strict compliance with bylaws and any OHSAA regulations that were impacted by the pandemic. The Article is set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 school year, however the OHSAA will keep it in place with modifications, including only if 1) the suspension remains consistent with the underlying purpose of the rule being suspended and 2) the suspension is a result of a natural disaster, a national/state emergency, or a force majeure. New additional language also clarifies that the authority granted within this Article is only available for application for an entire district and/or an entire school, not on an individual student basis.

PASSED 744 to 54 (16 abstained)

ISSUE 1B – ADD EXCEPTION TO BYLAW 4-3-1 (PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS PLAYING FOR NEIGHBORING DISTRICT IF MEMBER SCHOOL DOESN’T OFFER SPORT)

This proposed new exception, which failed by a close margin by the membership last year (13 votes), would have permitted a student enrolled at a member public high school that does not sponsor a team sport in which the student desires to participate to petition to play that sport at a public school located in a bordering public school district but only if the bordering district’s Board of Education would have adopted a resolution permitting such participation, and if the Superintendent of the school the student attends agreed to allow the participation. Reciprocal language was developed for students in a multiple high school district. An OHSAA form would have been needed to be utilized and, if approved by a Board of Education.

FAILED 427 to 374 (13 abstained)

ISSUE 2B – CLARIFY BYLAW 4-4-1 AND AMEND EXCEPTION 1 (HIGH SCHOOL ACADEMIC STANDARDS)

The first modification removes redundancy and simply requires engagement in coursework during the preceding grading period, with a new reference to Bylaw 4-3-1 for enrollment requirements. Exception 1 is being changed to remove the assessment of the top 10% class rank and would allow any senior meeting other requirements to utilize this exception. Criteria c is also being modified to clearly articulate for whom this bylaw is intended (students with good behavior records, attendance, and no failing grades). Exception 2 is being editorially changed to reflect a newer review process used by the E.D.’s Office.

PASSED 741 to 52 (21 abstained)

ISSUE 3B – ADD NEW ACADEMIC VERIFICATION REGULATIONS FOR CCP STUDENTS (BYLAW 4-4-1)

The changes in Issue 3B address the matter of CCP (College Credit Plus) students taking shorter “sprint” or “A/B” courses who don’t engage in coursework in that class during the grading period in question. The first proposed change removes the obligation of school administrators to conduct grade checks for CCP courses that are not concluded before the grading period ends. Students are assumed to be passing the course until they receive a failing grade or drop the class, and they must inform their school of any enrollment changes in CCP courses. The new Exception 4 allows “sprint” or “A/B” courses to count towards the 5-credit standard if they occur during the same semester and the student was enrolled in the course during a different grading period of the same semester. However, the student must be enrolled in the course at the beginning of the semester in order for it to count, and CCP courses taken during summer or a different semester cannot be used. If a student drops a CCP course after using it to meet the 5-credit requirement, they will become ineligible for the remainder of the grading period unless the CCP course was not necessary to meet the 5-credit requirement.

PASSED 776 to 30 (8 abstained)

ISSUE 4B – ADD LANGUAGE TO BYLAW 4-5-6

The first change clarifies that a student cannot transfer to a new school simply to avoid a code of conduct violation penalty. The second change addresses a student who was issued an indefinite athletic suspension at one school, who subsequently transferred to a new school and wants to play sports. The language provides the new school some discretion on how long the code of conduct violation penalty would remain in place at the new school, although the penalty would be required to last at least one calendar year. The change from the original version approved by the Board of Directors in December 2022 now requires the sending school to alert the receiving school of any pending code of conduct violations.

PASSED 767 to 41 (6 abstained)

ISSUE 5B – MODIFY BYLAW 4-7-2, TRANSFER

The first change adds titles to each of the paragraphs to the transfer bylaw to assist those desiring to find applicable transfer regulations. The second modification removes the application of the transfer consequence for a student who is attending the school located in their residential district and obtains approval from the superintendent for home education, or vice versa. The third change clarifies that non-enrolled students who are participating at their local public school in accordance with state law may transfer their participation opportunity back and forth between schools in between sports seasons (based on sports offered) without any transfer consequence. Additionally, the proposed language outlined in Note 2 would clarify which school is required to submit transfer exception paperwork when dealing with non-enrolled transfer students.

PASSED 625 to 156 (33 abstained)

ISSUE 6B – MODIFY BYLAW 4-7-2, EXCEPTION 5, TRANSFER BACK TO SAME SYSTEM OF NON-PUBLIC EDUCATION

This exception was approved by the membership during the 2022 referendum voting, but a modification to criteria (c) of the exception follows an appeal recently heard by the OHSAA Appeals Panel. The modification allows the Executive Director’s Office to consider application for a senior, whereas the previous language required the transfer to take place prior to the student’s junior year. Additionally, new language waives the timing criteria entirely but only if the student came back to the same high school to which they have ALWAYS been enrolled, and it also would only apply if the student did not play any other sports at the other school when they left.

PASSED 679 to 109 (26 abstained)

ISSUE 7B – AMEND BYLAW 4-7-2 EXCEPTION 9, NOTE 2

The Executive Director’s Office frequently reviews and fields questions relative to the movement of students between legal custodians who live in different school districts. This change codifies that, once a student transfers to a new school where a different legal custodian lives (which is in a different district than where their original legal custodian resides), the student forfeits the opportunity to ‘go back’ to their original school using the exception once the student has maintained attendance at the new school for at least one calendar year. After one calendar year, the new school of attendance becomes their ‘residential district school’ for the purposes of this exception, subject to applicable OHSAA Business Rules assignments within a multiple high school district.

PASSED 718 to 77 (19 abstained)

ISSUE 8B – AMEND BYLAWS 4-7-3, MIDSEASON TRANSFER

This bylaw prevents a student from transferring to a new school after already playing in a regular season contest and attempting to play the same sport after their transfer. Though intended to prevent participation for two different schools during the same season, the current language did not take into consideration the fact that a student can transfer to a new school and still be permitted to have a participation opportunity at the same school where they were already participating, in accordance with state law. The modification waives the mid-season transfer prohibition as long as the transfer leads to a participation opportunity for the same team. The additional edits to the language clarify that a student would still have to meet the requirements of an exception in order to waive the transfer consequence.

PASSED 692 to 103 (19 abstained)

ISSUE 9B – AMEND BYLAWS 4-7-6 AND 4-7-7, INTRA-DISTRICT/SYSTEM TRANSFERS

Bylaws 4-7-6 and 4-7-7 are the respective public and non-public schools intra-district/system transfer regulations (meaning these bylaws/situations are only available for students who transfer schools between the same district/system). These regulations have no application for a student who transfers between schools within different districts/systems. The changes make the public and non-public schools intra-district/system regulations more consistent with one another (both would include a change in academic program and a transportation hardship option, while the public-school bylaw would include a redistricting option and the non-public school bylaw would include an economic hardship option), and would also allow for change of academic program requests to be considered at the semester break, subject to Bylaw 4-7-3 (midseason transfer rule).

PASSED 620 to 63 (131 abstained)

ISSUE 10B – AMEND BYLAW 7, CONTRACTS

These modifications came about from feedback from a league in northeast Ohio. The current language in Bylaw 7-1-2 does not clearly define the meaning of a “published schedule.” Adding the new definition of “published” more clearly articulates when a league/conference schedule becomes an enforceable contract. The language under Bylaw 7-1-3 is being added to encourage schools to explicitly state the penalty for breaking a league/conference contract. Under current operating procedures, when the Executive Director’s Office is forced to become involved with league/conference disputes, it must consider a variety of factors. If schools already have a clearly defined penalty within their constitution/bylaws, it allows the league/conference to take more ownership in the enforceability of any such contract disputes and/or gives the Executive Director’s a better starting point. Also, under 7-1-8, the word “signed/published” is added to clearly define what situations the Executive Director’s Office will help resolve a dispute. In addition, the new note helps enforce that the Executive Director’s Office will only attempt to resolve signed/published contracts.

PASSED 745 to 42 (27 abstained)

ISSUE 11B – NEW BYLAW 8-3-2, AND RENUMBER

This addition requires schools to protect the contact and personal information of contest officials before and after a contest unless first gaining permission to provide such information from the contest official.

PASSED 779 to 25 (10 abstained)

ISSUE 12B – AMEND BYLAW 11-1-4, PENALTIES

On occasion, the Executive Director’s Office is prevented from upholding a ruling due to legal intervention (e.g. a temporary restraining order). If the court ultimately finds that the original ruling was correct, this addition codifies the Executive Director’s Office’s ability to also impose the ruling (e.g. penalty) in the immediately following school year/sports season. Note that even though Bylaw 11-1-2, Penalties, would already permit the Executive Director’s Office to impose a penalty, adding this language to Bylaw 11-1-4 would help reinforce the notion that penalties may still be imposed in the future for anyone considering litigation.

PASSED 730 to 46 (38 abstained)

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