The Transfer Rule

While many schools in North Dakota are starting this week, Grand Forks Public Schools is still two weeks away from our opening date.  This month before the start of school is the time of year that I receive the most phone calls with questions regarding the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) transfer rule.  Before I get too deep into explanation and opinion, I’ll briefly summarize the rule using just main points.

* Students can select their high school of attendance as a freshman (subject to local enrollment rules, of course).
* Once a student walks through the doors for Day 1 as a freshman, that high school is his/her “school of choice.”
* Changing high schools without a corresponding change in parental residence results in the student being ineligible for varsity competition for 180 school days (essentially one calendar year.)

Through my conversations with parents, several common misconceptions surface.  Some of them are as follows:

* There is no such thing as dual residency.  If you own two houses in different districts, any move from the “Freshman” district to the other district results in a 180 school day violation.
* Simply changing the custodial status of the student does not make the kid eligible in a new school.  I’ve had multiple questions regarding a parent who wishes to establish an aunt/uncle or brother/sister as the legal guardian of a student in order to change schools and still be eligible.  The NDHSAA is very clear that any time the custody of a student is changed as the result of a choice by the parent or child, the student is still subject to the transfer rule.
* If a student has transferred out of their home district, he/she is NOT allowed a free transfer back to the home district, even if he/she served a 180 day penalty already.  Basically, every transfer after starting the freshman school year is treated the same.
* Separation, divorce, or unmarried shared custody of a student does NOT give a student free transfer back and forth between schools.
* Even if a student didn’t participate in school based programs at the previous school, the transfer rule applies to participation at the “new” school.
* The NDHSAA does have a hardship request process that could potentially allow the transfer rule to be waived, but this is only applied in extreme circumstances.  In my 9th year as an AD, I’ve had roughly a dozen conversations with parents who wished to pursue a hardship.  Of those, I’ve only filed 2 hardship requests; and of those two, I only thought one would/should/could be approved.  Hardships aren’t common.
* A transfer between any school – public, private, or parochial – is still a transfer.
* Even if the parents move, the kid is allowed to stay in his/her current school without penalty.  If the student subsequently decides to rejoin his/her parents, he may or may not be subject to the transfer rule depending on some other circumstances.

Regarding enforcement specifically in Grand Forks:
We allow open enrollment between our two high schools, but those changes in attendance are still subject to the transfer rule.
Home school students who live in the Grand Forks attendance area – and therefore file an Intent to Educate with GFPS – compete with the high school in which attendance area the family lives.

There are a multitude of various questions and possibilities that the NDHSAA addresses in their Constitution and By-Laws that can be found here.  The short, basic version of the rule is that your family needs to move “lock, stock, and barrel” in order to be immediately eligible in your new district.

For whatever reason, I’ve had several parents and coaches ask me this year why the NDHSAA has a rule that forces kids to stay out of North Dakota schools.  The truth is actually the exact opposite: this rule is designed to keep kids with their families, at home, in their home town schools.  The main problem I face with this comment is that parents call me to ask what the rule is after their son/daughter has already attended a different school and wishes to come home.  (Related – the majority (maybe all?) of students in my tenure don’t enjoy their time away from home – a fact that I pass along to every parent who asks.)

I’ve heard several different reasons from parents and kids regarding their desire to leave home for a year, but the most common has something to do with chasing a college scholarship.  To all of these comments, I offer three responses:
1. Roughly, only 6.5% of high school athletes play college sports.  Less than 3% of high school athletes receive a college scholarship at any level: JUCO, D1, D2, or NAIA.  (This will be the subject of next week’s blog!)
2.  A kid’s ability to play college sports was largely decided at conception.  It’s an unfortunate fact, but still a fact.  The vast majority of people are born without the athletic tools necessary to compete at the college level.  The rest are weeded out by the necessary work ethic.  I really badly wanted to play football and basketball at Notre Dame, but 6’1″ 175lb high school seniors who run a 5.0 40 don’t get that opportunity.
3.  College coaches are paid to find exceptional athletes, and they look everywhere for them.  You don’t need to move anywhere for college coaches to find you.  If a kid is worth finding, he/she will be found.

My takeaway – the system is designed for your kid to stay at home, with family, with friends, competing for the community in which he/she grew up, and enjoying his/her time as a kid.  It’s unfortunate that we live in a time requiring rules like this, but the perceived need to compete at the highest level is threatening our ability to offer quality educational based athletic programs.

As always, I welcome questions, comments, thoughts, or suggestions for future posts!

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