Randolph County's superintendent of schools said the school system will file complaints Monday about this week's ruling that a player on the Elkins High School football team is ineligible.
Dr. James Phares also said he directed EHS Principal David Fincham to reinstate the player, senior running back L.J. Lawrence, to the squad's eligibility roster Friday.
The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission ruled Wednesday that Lawrence, is ineligible to play. Officials said the investigation was prompted by a complaint submitted from a resident in a neighboring county. The ruling took the EHS team from a 7-2 record to an 0-9 slate on the season.
The Inter-Mountain file photo by Edgar Kelly
Elkins High School running back L.J. Lawrence looks to break outside as Wheeling Park defenders close in during an Oct. 12 football game. Lawrence leads the state in rushing with 1,491 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. The Randolph County School system is planning to file complaints against a ruling that deemed Lawrence ineligible and stripped EHS of all seven wins this season.
"We are going to exercise our right to file a complaint with the West Virginia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education that the WVSSAC was not in compliance with the McKinney-Vento Act," Phares told The Inter-Mountain Friday.
Phares said the federal legislation is designed to protect youth in homeless situations. The law guarantees that homeless youth have equal access to all school activities, including athletics.
The superintendent said when Lawrence moved to Elkins this year, Fincham and school counselors alerted Lynn Proudfoot, Randolph County Schools director of attendance, that the student met the requirements to be considered homeless.
"(The legislation) is in place so kids can blend in and finish school," Phares said. "The WVSSAC received the complaint and made their decision within 24 hours. They did not consider the McKinney-Vento Act."
He said there have been several cases where students have challenged athletic commissions and won based on the McKinney-Vento Act.
Phares said he directed Fincham to put Lawrence back on the team because the legislation also sets forth penalties for school systems that are not in compliance. Phares said the penalties can include sanctions and loss of federal funding.
The superintendent said he informed WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray Friday morning of the school system's intention to file the complaint.
"I told (Ray) I would give him until noon on Monday to consider that before and prior to us filing the complaint," Phares said.
"I believe the WVSSAC will comply with the federal measure," he added. "I will be disappointed if they don't, but I am preparing to move forward."
Telephone calls to Ray from The Inter-Mountain were not returned Friday.
The EHS football team was inactive Friday, but it is scheduled to play Lewis County on Nov. 2.
"On Wednesday, the superintendent, principal, athletic director, coaches and players were trying to pick up the pieces," Phares said. "Today, we feel we have the pieces in place. We are working to make sure we correct what happened here."