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Sunlake soccer player's dad appeals transfer ruling

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Published:   |   Updated: January 22, 2014 at 03:01 PM

LAND O’ LAKES — The case of a soccer player who was ruled ineligible to play after he transferred from Pasco High School to Sunlake High isn’t over.

The teenager’s father has filed an appeal of the ruling of Circuit Judge Linda Babb, who had sided with the Pasco County School Board and said the board has the authority to require that student-athletes who transfer must sit out from sports one calendar year.

The policy is aimed at preventing students and coaches from circumventing recruiting rules.

School board attorney Dennis Alfonso said Tuesday he had not yet seen the appeal that Salvatore Mazza filed on behalf of his son, Michael, and couldn’t comment.

The Sunlake High senior and his family first took the district to court in November over its policy for handling student-athletes who transfer from one high school to another. The policy just went into effect this school year.

Even before that, Mazza made his case before the district’s Atheltic Transfer Participation Committee, which is the procedure outlined in the board policy.

In the appeal before that committee, the student’s family said the reason for his transfer was not to play soccer, but was because he faced threats after he provided the school information about vandalism at Pasco High.

School district officials, though, said they had no record that Mazza complained about bullying, and that before the vandalism took place Mazza told the Pasco High soccer coach that he planned to transfer to Sunlake High to play soccer.

The committee ruled against Mazza and the superintendent agreed with the committee, which led the boy’s father to file a lawsuit against the board, seeking a temporary injunction so the teenager could join the Sunlake team.

Babb denied the temporary injunction Nov. 21.

Even as district officials learned Tuesday that Mazza had appealed Babb’s ruling, they were in a school board workshop discussing tweaks to the transfer policy, though nothing that relates directly to Mazza’s situation.

The district plans to streamline how it handles appeals of transfer students who want to participate in sports.

Under the change, which could be implemented in February, the appeals will be done automatically and electronically, Supeirntendent Kurt Browning said.

“There will be no need for the parents or the student to appear before the committee,” Browning said.

Parents and students still could choose to do so.

If unsuccessful before the committee, a student can appeal to the superintendent’s office.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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