Letters to the Editor

Letters from the issue of March 16, 2000

Never Too Small to Break the Rules
Andrea Loring got tired of seeing private high schools recruit star basketball players. But she had no idea busting them would bring her such grief.
By Robert Andrew Powell

Never Too Small to Grouse
Robert Andrew Powell's article "Never Too Small to Break the Rules" (March 9), about the high school basketball situation in Miami-Dade County, did present some arguments on both sides, and this was appreciated. However, there were at least two major errors and some omissions:

Error #1: A photo caption in the article labeled the boys in question from Miami Christian School as "illegal." The truth is the boys are not illegal. They have valid passports and beyond that have valid I-20 [immigration status]. They are legally in the country and have the proper documentation to prove it. They also are of the proper age and have the proper grade-point averages to play according the regulations of the Florida High School Activities Association (FHSAA).

Error #2: As school head of Miami Christian, I was quoted as saying a man named Andrew was involved in bringing the boys to the school. In all the conversations I had with Robert, neither he nor I ever mentioned any Andrew. I have no idea who this supposed Andrew is.

Omission #1: The FHSAA asked for further documentation on the three ineligible players at Miami Christian and then did not have the documents translated from Spanish before making their decision. To date the state has not had them translated, though the school offered to pay for it.

Omission #2: The FHSAA, after pulling players before the end of the season -- but before district, regional, and final-four playoffs -- would not allow an appeal hearing until the day of the Class 1A state championship game, far too late for any of the boys to play should their appeal have been won. This appeal process is clearly lacking any due-process provisions afforded any person, including internationals, under our federal constitution.

Omission #3: The three boys in question at Miami Christian not only have appropriate immigration documentation, they also fall well within the age and grade guidelines of the FHSAA.

I found it very eye-opening to sit in the stands at the final four in Lakeland, among people who did not know I was school head of Miami Christian, and listen to them speak freely to each other about the situation. There were some people from upstate Florida saying they knew the FHSAA was pulling out international players and their teams just to protect the basketball dynasty of the North Florida schools like Malone, Port St. Joe, and Arlington Country Day. They obviously feel the FHSAA works hard to keep the North Florida basketball dynasty intact.

The Florida state legislature (the governing body of the FHSAA) needs to take steps to ensure that the educational system in Florida is not denied to international students merely because they are also athletic. Legislators and the FHSAA need to:

•Realize that South Florida, and increasingly all of the state, is diverse and international

•Require that FHSAA board members be made up of individuals who reflect the international diversity and population of the entire State of Florida

•Provide for the translations of international transcripts for the purpose of validation for both the state and the schools; these translations should be done by any of the numerous certified translators in the state who have no vested interest in the outcome

•Acknowledge that due process must provide a hearing before irreparable harm has been done to the students

•Understand that unless the geopolitical situation changes in the world, Florida will remain international

The FHSAA should be proud of its schools, like Miami Christian, which have bona fide English as Second Language programs for their athletic and nonathletic international students. The FHSAA should develop a system whereby internationals can be accepted regardless of whether they are athletic rather than progress toward a systematic denial of all athletic internationals, thus creating a new class of people against whom to discriminate.

Steps of this nature would end the abuse of power that is currently demonstrated by the actions of the FHSAA. Otherwise Robert Andrew Powell's next article might be titled, "Empowerment Without Regulation Ensures Clear Abuse of Power."

Lorena Morrison
Miami Christian School
Miami

Never Too Small to Grumble
As a parent, teacher, and resident of Miami-Dade County for more than 25 years, I was very unhappy about Robert Andrew Powell's article. First, I think it is important to mention that the official making the decisions about our basketball team was quoted as saying, "It is repugnant and disgusting of [sic] bringing in international standouts.... It is not good for basketball statewide." Miami-Dade County is and has been an international community for as long as I have lived here. Our diversity is one of our many strengths, and I find it terribly offensive to label any member of our international community as repugnant or disgusting.

Second, the students in question at Miami Christian are here on valid passports and I-20s. I would be very interested to know why he referred to them as "illegal." Further they were found to be of proper age and to have the proper grade-point averages.

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