Changes to several parts of Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaws are now in effect due to the signing of House Bill 166, also known as the budget bill, into state law by Governor Mike DeWine on July 18.

The legislative action affecting several components of OHSAA bylaws include transfers and also increased participation opportunities for students who hold an F-1 visa.

“While the purpose of the legislation may have been well-intended, it has a significant impact to parts of several bylaws simply due to the differences between public and non-public schools,” said Jerry Snodgrass, OHSAA Executive Director. “Throughout the spring and summer, we sent many communications to legislators to explain the impact of those items, and we met personally with some of them, but our efforts did not result in those items being removed. Ironically, the proposal related to F-1 visas was in the House of Representatives for the last two years and did not receive any support, but then it appeared in the budget bill.

“We believe that a vote by OHSAA member schools should be the only way to change the OHSAA bylaws,” Snodgrass added. “However, to comply with these new state laws, we must amend the affected bylaws and begin using new standards to process transfers and also students with F-1 visas. I have been in communication with our member schools, and we will discuss these changes further during the fall regional update meetings around the state in September and October.” 

Although OHSAA bylaws are adopted through a democratic process by OHSAA member schools, state law can override those bylaws. The new state laws made that point expressly clear by including the provision that “no district, interscholastic conference, or organization that regulates interscholastic athletics shall adopt a rule, bylaw, or other regulation contrary to this section.”

“Our hope is to be able to reinstate these parts of the bylaws in the future,” Snodgrass said. “We will continue to work toward what we believe is the best course of action for the membership and carefully review our course with our elected board of directors.”

As a result, state law now requires “the same pupil transfer rules for public schools and nonpublic schools.” The following OHSAA bylaws are thus affected:

BYLAW 4-7-2 – Removal of Exceptions 5 and 6.

Exception 5 dealt with transfers to the State School for the Blind or State School for the Deaf, which are both public schools run by the Ohio Department of Education. Since there is no non-public school equivalent, that exception had to be removed. Exception 6 dealt with student transfers to public schools who are enrolled under ORC §§ 3313.64 (F)(6) or 3313.64 (F)(7). Since non-public schools are not able to enroll students under these statutory provisions, it had to be removed. As a side note, Exception 9 has remained because it applies equally to a student regardless of whether he/she is transferring from a public or a non-public school.

BYLAW 4-7-4 – Removal of Exception 5

This is a little-used exception which permitted a transfer to another school within a multi-high school system or district from a “poor performing school” as identified by the ODE’s Priority School List – a list that includes only public schools. Guidance is here: https://www.ohsaa.org/Portals/0/Eligibility/Bylaw4-7-4_Exc3456.pdf 

BYLAW 4-7-5 – This bylaw has been removed.

Similar to the above, Bylaw 4-7-5 permitted a transfer to any out-of-district school from a “poor performing school” as identified by the ODE’s Priority School List – a list that includes only public schools. Since transfer rules must be the same for public and non-public, this bylaw is removed. 

BYLAW 4-7-6 – The “redistricting option” has been removed.

This bylaw previously had two options for public school multiple high school district transfers – change of academic program (rising seniors excluded) and redistricting. The redistricting option has been eliminated since non-public schools do not have defined geographic boundaries, so there could be no non-public school equivalent. Therefore, we will only be able to approve transfers under this bylaw for legitimate changes in academic programs. Guidance for this can be found at: https://www.ohsaa.org/Portals/0/Eligibility/4-7-6Guidance_IntradistrictTransfer.pdf 

BYLAW 4-7-7 – The “Transportation and Financial Hardship Options” have been removed.

This bylaw previously had three options for non-public multiple high school system transfers – change of academic program (rising seniors excluded); transportation issues creating a hardship and financial issues creating a hardship. The transportation and financial hardship options have been eliminated since these were not options afforded to students in the public school sector. Therefore, to be consistent with 4-7-6, we will only be able to approve transfers under this bylaw for legitimate changes in academic programs. Guidance for this can be found at: https://www.ohsaa.org/Portals/0/Eligibility/4-7-7Guidance_IntrasystemTransfer.pdf 

The budget bill also includes language which expands participation opportunities for international students who hold an F-1 visa issued by the United States Department of State. The new state law permits students with an F-1 visa to attend non-public schools for their entire secondary course of study (grades 7-12). Under federal law, F-1 visa students are not permitted to attend public 7th and 8th-grade schools and can attend a public high school for only one year.

“In addition to the fact that participation beyond one year isn’t an option at public schools for international students with an F-1 visa, we are also aware that there is often competition regarding where those students will be placed at non-public schools for athletic reasons,” Snodgrass said. “We will work with our non-public schools on this situation.”

The bylaw modification necessary is expressed in Bylaw 4-8-1 Exception 4. It will be necessary to submit a form prior to these students’ participation, which can be found at:https://ohsaa.org/Portals/0/Eligibility/forms/FEcert.pdf

In those sports affected by Competitive Balance, students with an F-1 visa will be placed into Tier 2.

These changes will be denoted in the 2019-20 OHSAA Handbook as stricken text.