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CRUZ EX REL. CRUZ v. PENNSYLVANIA INTERS. ATHLETIC

June 27, 2001

LUIS CRUZ, BY HIS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, RAMONITA CRUZ, AND RIDLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, PLAINTIFFS
V.
PENNSYLVANIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Buckwalter, United States District Court Judge.

MEMORANDUM

By stipulation, the parties agreed that the evidence in the case now before the Court would consist of: the testimony provided on November 15, 2000; the exhibits proffered during that hearing (including any exhibits that were marked for identification, shared with opposing counsel, and used in the course of the November 15, 2000 testimonial hearing but that may not have yet been formally accepted into evidence); and, at the option of the defendant, the Individualized Education Program for Luis Cruz as it existed in June 2000 and as provided by plaintiffs to defendant by letter dated November 29, 2000.

The parties also encouraged the Court to include in its consideration of the merits the briefs that they submitted prior to the November 15, 2000 preliminary injunction hearing. Plaintiff has objected only to certain exhibits attached to the pre-hearing brief of defendant. Those exhibits are not admitted into the evidence of this case except for the two Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) and one Comprehensive Evaluation Report (CER) for Luis Cruz, the plaintiff in this case.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

A. Identity of Parties

1. A Plaintiff herein is Luis Cruz, by and through his mother and natural guardian, Ramonita Cruz, both of whom are individuals residing at 120 Crosby Street, Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania 19013.

2. A Plaintiff herein is Ridley School District, a school district and political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having a principal address at 1001 Morton Avenue, Folsom, Delaware County, Pennsylvania 19033.

3. Defendant herein is the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc. ("P.I.A.A."), a Pennsylvania association having a principal address at 550 Gettysburg Road, P.O. Box 2008, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055-0708.

B. Stipulation

A Joint Stipulation of Facts by the parties follows:

1. P.I.A.A. is a Pennsylvania non-profit membership corporation composed of most public and many private high schools in Pennsylvania, for a total of approximately 1,350 schools.

2. A purpose of P.I.A.A. is to develop and apply rules regulating interscholastic athletic competition among its members. Article II of the P.I.A.A. Constitution states that the purpose of the P.I.A.A. is to "formulate and maintain policies that will safeguard the educational values of interscholastic athletics and cultivate high ideals of good sportsmanship."

3. The Preamble to the P.I.A.A. Constitution contains an Equal Opportunity Statement that the P.I.A.A. "believes that all boys and girls should have equal opportunity to participate in all levels of interscholastic athletics regardless of race, color, sex, creed, religion or ethnic background."

4. P.I.A.A. is governed by a Constitution adopted by its member schools and By-Laws adopted by its elected Board of Directors. The authenticity and admission into evidence of the written P.I.A.A. Constitution and By-Laws with the period 2000-2001, as well as the P.I.A.A.'s written Policy and Procedures, is stipulated.

5. P.I.A.A. is divided, for administrative purposes, into eleven geographic districts. Member schools elect a district committee.

6. Ridley High School is a P.I.A.A. member in District I, which encompasses Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.

7. Each district committee elects a chairman who becomes the district's representative on the Board of Directors, which is the statewide governing body of the organization.

8. The other members of the Board of Directors include representatives of the Pennsylvania Association of Secondary School Principals, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, athletic officials, and junior high/middle schools. In addition, the Board of Directors has advisors from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (Superintendents), the Chairman of the Girls' Athletics Steering Committee, and a representative of the private schools which are members of P.I.A.A.

9. All of the members of the Board of Directors are experienced professional educators who also have background and experience in dealing with high school athletics.

10. The Preamble to the P.I.A.A. Constitution, entitled "Adherence to and enforcement of P.I.A.A. Rules," states that a District Committee or the Board of Directors of the P.I.A.A. may on its own motion enforce P.I.A.A. requirements. Under Article VII, Section 1 thereof, the Board of Directors of P.I.A.A. directors shall, among other things, (1) have general control over all interscholastic athletic relations and athletic contests in which a P.I.A.A. member school participates (Subsection A); hear appeals from decision of District Committees and make the necessary investigations and decisions (Subsection G); (2) fix and enforce penalties for any violation of the P.I.A.A. Constitution By-Laws (Subsection H); and (3) have general control of championship contests and interscholastic meets (Subsection I).

11. Section 1 of Article I of the By-Laws is commonly called the Age Rule. It provides as follows:

ARTICLE I

AGE

Section 1. Maximum Age Rule.

A pupil shall be ineligible for interscholastic athletic competition upon attaining the age of nineteen years, with the following exception:
If the age of 19 is attained on or after July 1, the pupil shall be eligible, age-wise, to compete through that school year.

12. Section 3 of Article XII of the By-Laws is commonly called the Forfeiture

Rule. It provides as follows:

ARTICLE XII

PENALTIES

Section 3. Forfeit of Games.

(a) A school shall be required to forfeit a contest for using an ineligible coach and/or contestant.

13. The purposes of Article I of the P.I.A.A. By-Laws as asserted by the P.I.A.A. are: (1) to protect high school athletes of customary age from the dangers and unfairness of participation with those who are older and thus perhaps physically larger, stronger, and more mature and experienced; (2) to limit the possibility that the team with the over-age student will gain an unfair competitive advantage over opponents; (3) to have available the maximum number of team positions for high school athletes who are of customary age for students in high school; and (4) to maintain uniformity of standards with regard to the age of participants.

14. The P.I.A.A. By-Laws are subject to amendment through P.I.A.A.'s legislative process.

15. Ridley High School, which is part of Ridley School District, is a recipient of federal funding.

16. Luis Cruz is a learning disabled, special education student in his fourth year at Ridley High School.

17. Luis Cruz has played several sports in his first three years at Ridley High School, including football, wrestling and track.

18. Because he is a student with a disability, Luis Cruz is educated in accordance with an individualized education program (IEP), pursuant to the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

19. As a "non-graded" student, Luis Cruz is not enrolled in a particular numerical grade.

20. Under the IDEA, Luis Cruz has a right to a free and appropriate education and to attend high school until the end of June 2002, when he will be 21 years old, or until he graduates in a manner consistent with the IDEA if he does so before age 21.

21. The authenticity and admission into evidence of Luis Cruz's written records previously exchanged between the parties and presented at trial, including IEP's dated June 22, 2000, April 29, 1999 and May 1, 1998, and his Comprehensive Evaluation Reports (CER) dated June 7, 2000 and May 11, 1998, is stipulated.

22. Most students enter high school at age 13 or 14 and graduate after four years at age 17 or 18. Said students are eligible under P.I.A.A. rules to participate in interscholastic high school sports for four years provided that such students meet the eligibility rules of P.I.A.A.

23. Students who are age 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 participate in interscholastic high school sports and P.I.A.A. sanctioned events, and are not ineligible due to age according to P.I.A.A. rules.

24. Luis Cruz turned 19 years of age on June 2, 2000, prior to his fourth year at Ridley High School.

25. Luis Cruz subsequently played in two interscholastic football games during the 2000 football season.

26. Ridley High School officials then realized the conflict with the Age Rule, in that Luis Cruz's birthday fell 28 days before July 1, 2000, and promptly thereafter reported the same to the P.I.A.A.

27. Ridley High School and Ridley School District requested the P.I.A.A. grant a waiver/exemption as to said rules and/or amend the rules.

28. At its meeting of Saturday, October 7, 2000, the P.I.A.A. Board of Directors considered Ridley's request to amend the Age Rule to provide for a waiver. The request was unanimously rejected on October 7; that result was communicated by P.I.A.A. to Ridley no later than the ...


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