NJSIAA exempts school choice students from transfer rule
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – Athletes who transfer to participate in
the school choice program will be eligible to play varsity sports
immediately unless their former school complains the move was made
for athletic advantage.
Normally, athletes who switch schools without moving must sit
the first 30 days of the season, but the executive committee of the
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association approved the
waiver of the 30-day rule for school choice students at its
Wednesday morning meeting.
The NJSIAA had wanted school choice transfers to also it 30
days. But the state Department of Education requested the NJSIAA
waive the rule, according to NJSIAA officials. Steve Timko,
executive director of the NJSIAA, said the organization didn’t have
much choice in the matter. The state Department of Education didn’t
want the possibility of sitting 30 days to adversely influence a
student’s decision to participate in the school choice program.
“It’s like anything else,” Timko said. “You receive direction
from the people you work for and you follow those directions.”
The school choice program expanded in 2011-12 to 71 districts
under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. Schools can offer
unique programs in areas such as math or engineering to attract
students from outside their districts.
Students must decide by Friday whether or not to enroll in
school choice programs. Ocean City and Hammonton are the only
school choice high schools in the Cape-Atlantic League.
The fear is that a school choice program could be manipulated to
attract talented athletes and build winning programs. Several
members of the executive committee spoke about such possibilities
before voting 24-6 with five abstentions to waive the 30-day
“From an association viewpoint, the concerns raised here are
very valid,” said Matthew Jamison, president of the NJSIAA
executive committee and Ocean City High School principal.
Jamison said students are applying to Ocean City strictly for
“Quite frankly, Ocean City doesn’t want to get into the position
of (students) coming to our choice program specifically for
athletics,” Jamison said. “That’s clearly stated in our goals and
If a school complains one of its athletes is attending a school
choice school for athletic advantage, the NJSIAA will hold a
hearing to determine the athlete’s eligibility.
NJSIAA officials acknowledged that it is difficult to prove that
someone is attending a school for athletic advantage because you
can’t read the minds of students or their parents.
“These are difficult situations to prove,” NJSIAA attorney Steve
Goodell said, “but it would give us an opportunity to
Timko said state officials and legislators seem willing to
listen to the NJSIAA if school choice programs are used to create
“We’ll monitor it very closely,” Timko said. “Hopefully, we can
maker some recommendations after reassessing.”
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