BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - The family of a high school volleyball player says she is unfairly missing out on the current season of her favorite sport because the Colorado High School Activities Association is interpreting their own rules in a way that prevents her from competing this year. The sophomore transferred to a new school in January for in-person learning but found out later she was not eligible to join the varsity volleyball team.
"It was really isolating, not seeing my friends, not seeing my teachers," said Morgan Anderson, describing her remote learning experience. "All the students didn't have their cameras on to help the connectivity, and it was just, you're alone."
Anderson transferred from another high school in Broomfield to Holy Family High School and was eager to attend classes on campus throughout the week. But even at Holy Family with in-person teaching, she says it was still a challenge to connect with other students because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's really hard to transfer in high school," she told CBS4 on Tuesday. "With a mask, one-way hallways, no lockers. It's just really difficult to find your spot. I wanted to play sports so I could be involved."
Anderson started playing volleyball in fourth grade and dedicated herself to the sport in middle school. But when her family looked into the requirements for her to join the team at her new school, they were told the traditional rule of sitting out from a sport for 365 days did not apply. They say the leadership at CHSAA told them that instead of missing a set number of days, Anderson would have to wait a full season before playing again.
"It impacts Morgan but it probably impacts a lot of other kids that we don't know about," Andrew Richburg, Anderson's stepfather. "It's bringing attention to it and drawing attention to the fact that this is just not the way we want to treat kids at this time, in this situation, they've gone through enough."
Richburg told CBS4 that he has been in contact with CHSAA leaders and they explained that during the pandemic, they were enforcing the 365-day rule with the complete season of a given sport. He was also told they were taking into consideration the issue of equity, where some students may not be able to transfer. Given that many families may want to change schools because of coronavirus restrictions, CHSAA did not want to be unfair to families without that opportunity.
"The parental interpretation regarding the statewide and equitable application of the transfer rule, for all students, participating in the CDPHE approved modified CHSAA seasons, during this 2020-2021 pandemic year is pending a third level of appeal and the CHSAA will respect the parents and student's due process at this time," a statement from CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said in an email to CBS4.
CHSAA staff also explained in an email to CBS4 that their Board of Directors approved giving Blanford-Green full discretion on all waivers, especially those relating to academic and hardship reasons in a vote last May. The decision gave her the ability to make adjustments to bylaws and procedures. She has reviewed more than 1,000 waivers in the past year, staff added in the email.
"I just think we got to do what's right for the kids," Richburg said. "That's where we're at right now, the best thing for kids right now is to be able to play."
He wishes the organization would consider the impact of the pandemic on students in school and on the court when making decisions on eligibility for a team. Anderson made the varsity volleyball squad at her new school but has not played because of these rules. She continues to enjoy volleyball with other teams outside of CHSAA regulations and her family is working their way through the appeals process. But even if she wins her appeal on April 12, she would have to find a way to join the team just days before the season ends later that month.
"It's frustrating that I can't play right now, it's kind of hard to understand as well," Anderson said. "I just want to play, and make friends, and get involved with the new school."
She says it is difficult to follow the back and forth about whether she is eligible to play this year but looks forward to representing Holy Family on the court soon. Anderson also says her family wants their example to prevent this experience from happening to someone else.
"I really want this situation to bring light to the rules," she said. "I want another kid to not have to deal with what I'm dealing with and know that it's okay to transfer, if one school is not working out for you and you should be allowed to play the sport you want to play."
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