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Bill seeking to change how WIAA doles out punishment introduced

Post by Doug Pacey / The News Tribune on Jan. 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm with No Comments »
January 23, 2012 5:57 pm

Almost three dozen state senators don’t want to see student-athletes penalized for mistakes made by adults.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, filed Senate Bill 6383 last week that calls to stop the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association from handing out what he characterizes as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Benton specified the disqualification of the King’s Way Christian volleyball team from the Class 1B state tournament as an example. After the Knight’s won the District 4 tourney in November, it was discovered the team had played one too many matches in the regular season – the maximum allowed is 16. The district ruled it ineligible for the state tournament and the WIAA upheld the district’s ruling.

“What the WIAA did to the King’s Way Christian School volleyball team was way out-of-bounds,” Benton said in a press release. “Those kids didn’t do anything wrong. Kicking those kids out of the tournament was cruel and unusual punishment in my book.”

The bill seeks “to impose penalties for rules violations upon coaches, school district administrators, school administrators, and students, as appropriate, to punish the offending party or parties.”

It also aims to make punishment proportional to the committed offense and that student-athletes don’t suffer from violations made by adults.

Benton did not return a call seeking comment.

A public hearing in the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the capitol.

Mike Colbrese, WIAA executive director, declined to comment and will testify at the hearing.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, drawing 35 sponsors from across the state, including Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Sen. Steve Conway, D-South Tacoma; Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia; Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester; and Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way.

Because the WIAA is not a state agency – it’s a nonprofit organization – it’s doubtful that the state could direct the WIAA how to mete out punishment, said Dan Steele, government relations director for Washington Association of School Administrators.

It’s possible the state could find other ways to pressure the WIAA.

“There are certain things the legislature could do the make their life difficult,” Steele said, suggesting that the state could try to prohibit the WIAA from requiring schools to be members of the organization in order to compete in WIAA-sanctioned events.

Steele also questioned practical implications of the bill.

“Is this a bill,” he said, “that’s actually workable?”

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