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Legislature passes bill aimed at how WIAA punishes teams, players

Post by Doug Pacey / The News Tribune on April 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm with No Comments »
April 11, 2012 4:03 pm

Apparently, the Washington State Legislature feels good about passing a state budget and jobs package, because it found time to weigh in on high school sports.

In January, I wrote about Senate Bill 6383, which 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.”

Recently, SB 6383 was signed into law.

Here’s my story that will run in Thursday’s newspaper:

Not content with how the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s metes out punishment, Washington’s State Legislature passed a bill that aims to ensure student-athletes and their teams aren’t unfairly penalized.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, introduced Senate Bill 6383 in January. After passing in the House and Senate, Senate Bill 6383 was signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on March 29.

The bill goes into effect June 7.

The impetus of the bill came when King’s Way Christian’s volleyball team was deemed ineligible to compete in the Class 1B state tournament because the Vancouver school played more games than allowed. An investigation revealed that the extra game was scheduled by mistake.

Benton argued that the team should not have been punished because the student-athletes did not schedule the additional game.

The bill won’t have a drastic affect on the WIAA, according to the organization’s executive director, Mike Colbrese. However, he said, it will alter how the WIAA can administer penalties to teams that been found to stray.

Previously, the WIAA was forced to punish entire teams or individual players when clerical or administrative mistakes were made. Now, it appears, it’s possible that the WIAA can impose penalties that won’t affect a team’s eligibility if the punishment does not warrant it.

The WIAA is a private organization and does not receive state funding.

Here’s video of Colbrese testifying on Jan. 26.

Here’s the press release, dated March 29, from when the bill was passed:

Benton bill to promote fair treatment of student-athletes signed into law

OLYMPIA — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to help ensure fair treatment of student-athletes by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) was signed into law today.

Benton’s measure, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6383, does not interfere with the WIAA’s ability to enforce rules, but makes sure sanctions are appropriate, imposed only on the offending party and only for intentional rule violations.

Benton was prompted to file his bill after the girls volleyball team from King’s Way Christian School in Vancouver was kept out of the Class 1B state volleyball tournament in Yakima last year because the team played an extra game in the season. The game was scheduled by mistake.

“What the WIAA did to these girls was wrong; they were not responsible for the scheduling error,” Benton said. “In January, when I talked to my colleagues about my bill, I discovered that what happened to this team was not an isolated incident. That is why I quickly got 33 senators from both sides of the aisle to become co-sponsors.”

SB 6383 passed the Senate on Feb. 11 with overwhelming support.

During the House of Representative’s consideration of the bill on Feb. 29, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, shared a story told to him by a youth soccer coach. Orcutt said the coach pulled his team out of a game after two players were sent to the hospital with injuries suffered in the first period. As a result, the WIAA imposed a sanction that prohibited the team from participating in post-season play.

“There are supposed to be three referees and in this game there was only one,” Orcutt said. “He was unable to get up and down the field and lost control of the game. For me this is very much a safety issue. I think it is totally wrong to put a coach in the position where you have to stand there and let your kids get beat up to the point where they have to go to the hospital if you want to participate in post-season play.”

When Benton first introduced SB 6383, concerns were expressed by the director of the WIAA. However, the two men worked together on the final form of the bill and its passage in the House of Representatives.

The WIAA was created in 1905 to ensure equitable playing conditions between high school sports teams in Washington.

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