CornerKICKS: Regardless of intent, CPS and IHSA could be breaking 2003 Illinois law centered around discrimination & segregation

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Joe Trost, columnist for #PrepSportsReport

Two words and definitions that scare people:

Discrimination: “The unjust treatment of different categories of people or things.”

Segregation: “The action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people.”

One thing I learned throughout the South-Inter Conference Association (SICA) breakup back in 2006 is that people need to learn about the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003:

“It prohibits governmental policies that have a disparate impact against a racial group, regardless of intent, and allows aggrieved parties to challenges such policies in state or federal court.”

A school district is considered a part of the local government. Anyone who works for the school district is considered an employee of local government.

Remember, as you read: “Regardless of intent.”

When SICA, which was the largest high school conference in Illinois for decades, broke up over a decade ago, it was this law that really fueled the federal lawsuit. It was two days away from becoming the largest school district case since “Brown vs. the Board of Education” before an out-of-court settlement was reached.

Discrimination. Segregation. Regardless of intent.

When Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) denied 1,000s of Latin-X boys soccer players from the Class 2A and 3A state series, they didn’t mean to discriminate and segregate. They also didn’t mean to discriminate and segregate when the IHSA denied the appeal set forth by two principals from Latin-X schools.

Before I go further, because the column doesn’t get prettier for the IHSA and CPS, let’s get the facts out there.

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson doesn’t have an easy job. His interview with John Williams on WGN Radio the other day was genuine and sincere. It was great to hear. I helped WGN-TV track him down today at Plainfield North, so Anderson could have a voice in this ongoing saga. It’s important to have balance from all parties involved when stories like this hit.

I’ve also always been a big fan of CPS CEO Janice Jackson. People throughout CPS and outside of the district speak highly of her. And just like Anderson, just imagine being in Jackson’s role every single day. It’s a challenge, one she – and Anderson – have thrived in.

But…(there’s always a but right?)

When it comes to boys soccer, we have to get this fixed. This is a soccer column, which is why I’m focusing on soccer despite the fact 1,000s of student athletes across Chicago are being completely crapped on during the Chicago Teacher’s Union strike.

Some people think because the state series has started that it’s too late? The IHSA has weather dates built in, and there’s time to “Do What’s Right!” Not to mention an emergency injunction was filed today in Cook County court on behalf of all CPS student athletes.

The next round in the Class 2A and 3A boys soccer state series hasn’t officially started, and CPS teams from all over Chicago showed up at their games on Tuesday and Wednesday to prove they weren’t forfeiting. You probably saw stories and footage of CPS teams showing up on CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, FOX, Univision, Telemundo and CNN.

But the game of hot potato between the IHSA and CPS, which is tossing kids and families back and forth, has to stop.

Statement: IHSA has said in numerous public statements that CPS is prohibiting its student athletes from competing.

False: CPS charter schools are competing, so CPS isn’t prohibiting its student athletes. Like its non-charter CPS schools, the CPS charter schools are listed under the IHSA as reporting to CPS Sports Administration. Check every single school member page at IHSA.org. CPS charter schools are non-union or different union contracts than CPS regular schools.

Depending on the sport, CPS charters play in the same CPS Public League conference, too.

Is that discrimination and segregation of kids attending publicly-funded schools in Chicago? Both CPS charter and non-charter schools receive public tax dollars, but one CPS boys soccer team gets to play and the other CPS boys soccer team doesn’t?

Remember: “Regardless of intent.

Statement: CPS has said in numerous statements that the IHSA is prohibiting its student athletes from competing.

First, fact per IHSA “strike policy:” “When students from any member school first participate in the beginning level of competition in a given state series that state series is considered to have begun for all entered schools. If any school subsequently incurs a strike, the qualified teams and/or students will be permitted to continue participating in the state series, so far as the IHSA strike policy is concerned, even though their school may not be in legal session on the dates of subsequent state series competition in that sport.”

False statement: From a golfer at the state finals last Friday to Class 1A boys soccer teams in sectionals, CPS had its athletes benched or pulled off the course or field last weekend, despite the fact they started the state series competition before the CPS strike started and were nearing the end of their state series competitions in those sports. (See the definition.)

Statement: Anderson ruled that Class 2A and 3A boys soccer teams could not take part in the state series because of this portion of the IHSA strike policy: “If a school is on strike and not in legal session, as defined by the State Board of Education, on the date of the beginning competition in any IHSA state series, students from that school may not participate in the state series.”

False statement: “Competition” in the Class 2A and 3A state series competition officially began on Oct. 1 – long before the CPS strike – at the seeding competition event, where teams competed for the top finishes.

Statement: CPS has said it’s the IHSA restricting Class 2A and 3A boys soccer players from taking part, “because the IHSA says you need 51-percent attendance to compete.”

False statement: CPS had 51-percent attendance when “competition” in the Class 2A and 3A state series competition officially began on Oct. 1, again long before the CPS strike. And as noted: If any school subsequently incurs a strike, the qualified teams and/or students will be permitted to continue participating in the state series, so far as the IHSA strike policy is concerned, even though their school may not be in legal session on the dates of subsequent state series competition in that sport.”

Statement: There has been talk some teams wouldn’t have coaches, because coaches are teachers.

False/true: Some coaches are teachers, but many CPS coaches are non-union employees. There is likely a non-union or volunteer coach on staff. Jackson said today more than 400 union employees have crossed over, many coaches said they would support their student athletes. School buildings are open and administrators are working. The Chicago Park District offered to step in for coaches (who are on strike) and support student athletes. It required CPS approval. Jackson and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said no. Postseason events have been moved from the few CPS locations, like the boys soccer games Wednesday from Solorio to Soto, a CPS charter campus.

Statement: If a member school submits an appeal of the IHSA executive director’s decision, it must be submitted to the IHSA board of directors.

False statement: An appeal of the executive director’s “strike policy” ruling against Class 2A and 3A CPS boys soccer team was submitted over the weekend by three CPS principals. Anderson’s statement: “Our board of directors is unlikely to hear the appeal while the strike is ongoing as it appears CPS does not plan to allow for participation during the strike.”

Statement: According to Anderson: “Our board of directors is unlikely to hear the appeal while the strike is ongoing as it appears CPS does not plan to allow for participation during the strike.”

False: On Thursday, the IHSA announced it would hear a Simeon football appeal, as it was disqualified from the state series due to not having a minimum of eight games played despite having six wins. So, despite what Anderson said, he’s now going to listen to an appeal. He’ll listen to football and not soccer.

I’m sure you’re saying, “But the IHSA, it’s private. It has its own by-laws and regulations.”

That’s the same thing they said about SICA. One of the all-time classic quotes by a now retired high school athletic director was, “They can’t touch us, we’re like a country club. We have our own rules.”

False, false, false.

When you impact public schools, which are funded by public tax dollars, and deny a group of people – in this case low-income Latin-X kids – access to an all-membership event, people start to look around and say what’s going on?

Then, the IHSA doesn’t follow it’s own publicly-stated rules and denies to hear an appeal from the predominately Latin-X sport and schools “because the strike is ongoing.”

But days later, the IHSA, while the strike is still ongoing, says it will hear an appeal from a CPS football program that has an enrollment of 98.8 percent African American?

Wait, what?

Discrimination. Segregation. Regardless of intent.

Most youth sports results are decided on the field, but the past week they’re being decided by adults in the boardroom.

Time to get in the courtroom on Friday.

Stay tuned.

CornerKICKS (normally) appears on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at joetrost@gmail.com.

Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is an award-winning writer: STAR Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a three-time statewide IHSSCA Media Person of the Year; founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.; and board member for Buddy’s HELPERS, which engages and educates student athletes about Making A Difference On AND Off The Field.

 

 

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