Fox Creek High School is listed among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the South Carolina High School League over recently approved rule changes affecting public charter and prominent private schools.
Other plaintiffs in the suit, filed in Greenville County, are the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina; Brashier Middle College; Greenville Tech; Greer Middle College; Palmetto Scholars Academy; Legion Collegiate Academy; Oceanside Collegiate Academy; and Gray Collegiate Academy.
Also included are private schools Bishop England, Christ Church Episcopal, St. Joseph's and Southside Christian.
The lawsuit takes issue with what it calls illegal amendments to the SCHSL's transfer eligibility rules and "pre-existing illegal provisions in the League’s Constitution and By-laws."
"The result and intent of these illegal provisions is to discriminate against the Plaintiff Schools and against students who wish to attend Plaintiff Schools," the suit states. "This harms the Plaintiff Schools and the students whom they serve, limiting school choice and athletic participation. The New Amendments are not designed to serve educational or valid competitive interests, but instead violate public policy for the purpose of improving the on-field fortunes of the League’s largest and most entrenched members."
The suit claims that amendments made in March addressing transfer eligibility have "impaired the right and freedom of students who enroll at Plaintiff Schools after the beginning of seventh grade to establish immediate eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletics at Plaintiff Schools, and thus discriminate improperly against the Plaintiff Schools. These changes are unlawful and cause immediate and irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and to the students whom Plaintiffs were created to educate and serve."
The establishing of "original eligibility" in the seventh grade leaves these public charter schools at a disadvantage against traditional public schools because they only serve students in grades 9-12 and, as such, do not serve seventh grade students and don't have middle schools to automatically feed their high schools, the lawsuit states.
Then there's the case of what the suit claims are "illegal changes" to transfer eligibility rules that "have impaired the right and freedom of students who enroll at Plaintiff Schools after the beginning of seventh grade to establish immediate eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletics at Plaintiff Schools, and thus discriminate improperly against the Plaintiff Schools."
The rule changes approved in March essentially reversed the "ninth-grade entry rule" passed three years ago that allowed any student to transfer to any South Carolina high school without losing eligibility as long as that student was enrolled by the ninth grade. Now, that transfer student would have to sit out for a year.
Also, athletes who transfer within the same district from a public school to a charter or private school now have to sit out a year – that, the lawsuit states, is not the case should that same athlete transfer to a different traditional public school within the same district.
The lawsuit claims that these public charter and private high schools are affected differently because they're smaller – there are none in Class AAAA or AAAAA – and it also takes issue with the "fictitious, arbitrary, limited, League-assigned attendance zone" from which schools draw students.
The suit states that, as a result of the SCHSL's actions, these public charter schools will lose prospective students and revenue in addition to damage to the athletic programs.
"The students of these member charter schools will suffer loss of either athletic opportunities or educational opportunities – depending on which choice the family is required to make as a result of the League’s actions. Either choice, though, is an irreparable loss to the student for the overall developmental experience at the school," the suit claims.
Fox Creek, a member of Class A until the fall of 2016, is slated to move up to Class AAA in the latest round of SCHSL realignment. The Predators are set to begin the fall as members of Region 5-AAA along with Brookland-Cayce, Gilbert, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Strom Thurmond and Swansea.