EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Board votes to change Utah high school rules for transfer, international students

May 2, 2024, 5:00 AM

Utah High School Activities Association attorney Mark Van Wagoner discusses new transfer and F1 vis...

Utah High School Activities Association attorney Mark Van Wagoner discusses new transfer and F1 visa rules during a recent meeting in Midvale. (Amy Donaldson, KSL)

(Amy Donaldson, KSL)

MIDVALE, Utah — Significant changes to high school sports in Utah cleared another hurdle Wednesday afternoon.

The board that oversees high school sports voted unanimously to change how student-athletes transfer between schools. They also voted unanimously — with one abstention — to limit the way student-athletes attending Utah schools on F1 visas can participate in sanctioned sports.

F1 restrictions

The visa rule changes mean schools have to decide how they want to treat students using F1 visas to attend and play sports. There are three options. Students attending Utah high schools with an F1 visa are not eligible for varsity competition, or else schools can allow them to participate in varsity competition but the team would not be eligible for postseason play.

The third option is that the school could choose to leave the association and play independently, meaning they wouldn’t be subject to the association’s rules. Wasatch Academy decided to play an independent schedule with its boys basketball team and has had a lot of success.

“It’s not a ban … it is a competition-limiting feature which it’s being done because there is a sense that the current field has created an imperfect competitive balance,” said Mark Van Wagoner, attorney for the Utah High School Activities Association.

Van Wagoner said the association has had “numerous” complaints from parents, students and coaches that international student-athletes were being placed in Utah private schools. He said they looked into it and substantiated that two club organizations in other countries posted on social media sites announcements that student-athletes had been “placed” in Utah programs. He said three schools were listed on one organization’s website as “partners.”

READ MORE: Teachers’ salaries are the highest in over a decade. Why it’s still not enough

“There’s no question that there’s placement,” Van Wagoner said, “which, of course, would violate the recruiting rule. There’s no question about that. So that part of the information we already know. And that’s not what I’m currently investigating.”

He said he’s looking into what role Utah schools play in the placement of athletes.

“I’m trying to investigate the extent to which, if at all, any Utah high school knew about this placement, was aware of the schools that were sending, treated these students differently, did not require them to meet all of the otherwise set standards of the school, and/or deliberately failed to investigate,” Van Wagoner said. “Those are the things I want to know.”

Why now?

While there was discussion about holding off on changes until the investigations are complete, most wanted to deal with the issue as quickly — and as decisively — as possible.

“This is not coming from the top down,” said Van Wagoner of the proposal first drafted in March. The association has had “numerous” complaints from parents, students and coaches that international student-athletes were being placed in Utah private schools for athletic purposes.

The board listened to 45 minutes of comments from private school principals, parents who’d hosted students, and international students from Judge Memorial High, St. Joseph’s and Layton Christian Academy. They spoke against any change, but asked, at a minimum for more time to contemplate solutions that might not have so much collateral damage.

“Though I oppose any changes to the current UHHSA policy, I would just ask that, No. 1, no rule changes are made while this investigation is going on,” said Patrick Lambert, principal of Judge Memorial. “I think that’s an important part of this. If an investigation reveals that wrongdoings occurred, then let’s deal with that.”

He made a number of other suggestions, including making international students subject to transfer rules and finding a way to have more transparency in how these students end up at Utah schools.

“Please put these students first, recognizing so many have come here, they’ve followed the rules, they’ve done everything right, and they just want to participate in their school activities,” Lambert said. “And I would just remind us of how I think our inclusivity here at the state is something that’s really important to us. We’ve been inclusive for so many years, and please, keep putting the children first.”

The board discussed many options, including allowing those currently attending Utah schools on F1 visas to be “grandfathered” in, but ultimately there wasn’t enough support for softening the change.

“I say let’s make the hard call,” said Todd Quarnberg, principal of Herriman High. “And it goes out to the member schools. They can vote.”

Sending the issue to the schools was widely supported by the board because that’s where the complaints came from.

“They are making the final determination,” said Brent Strate, who represents the Utah State Board of Education. “If there is not a two-thirds vote, then we’re back at square one.”

Transfer rule

The new transfer rule states that students who have played a sport at any Utah high school within the past 12 months can transfer for any reason, but they will automatically be ineligible to play for 30 days — or 50 percent of the games — whichever is greater. If a student transfers a second time, they are ineligible for a full year.

Read the full story from KSL.com here.

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

a helicopter shown, vertiport demonstration tonight...

Sam Herrera

LISTEN: UDOT and USU to conduct vertiport demonstration

The Utah Department of Transportation and Utah State University will conduct the state's first vertiport demonstration Monday night.

18 hours ago

West High Principal Jared Wright with James Yapias in front of west high clinic sign...

Amanda Dickson

Healthcare inside West High School

The West High School Clinic allows students to see nurses, pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists right inside their school.

23 hours ago

BYU nursing student Jane Pearson smiles before donating her bone marrow in late 2023....

Emma Everett Johnson, KSL.COM

BYU student donates bone marrow to potentially save stranger’s life

BYU nursing student Jane Pearson is donating bone marrow to a stranger through the National Marrow Donor Program.

1 day ago

Students walk at the University of Utah...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Who goes to summer school?

KSL NewsRadio host Amanda Dickson reflects on her first week of teaching summer classes at the University of Utah.

5 days ago

Disagree better toolkit...

Don Brinkerhoff

Local professors create ‘Disagree Better’ toolkit for parents

Professors created "Disagree Better" toolkit which includes free online courses to help parents teach kids ways to handle disagreements.

5 days ago

Samantha Corey poses with several members of the American Fork High School football team....

Kyle Remund

Deceased student will be honored at American Fork High School graduation following outcry

Alpine School District has announced that Samantha Corey, a student whose life was lost to cancer, will now be recognized at the graduation ceremony for American Fork High School.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Board votes to change Utah high school rules for transfer, international students