It looks like a green light for red shirts in high school sports.
Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum said Thursday extracurriculars are not covered by schools of choice legislation, and if the education system is happy with tough controls on kids switching schools to win championships, then that’s the way it will be.
Since the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association board is made up of education stakeholders — superintendents, principals, teachers, trustees, students and provincial officials — it would appear the minister’s criterion for acceptance has already been covered.
The MHSAA has approved a policy already widespread throughout Canada and the U.S. that forces students to sit out a year in a varsity sport if they switch schools. It takes effect in 2015-16.
The so-called red-shirting rule would end the prevalent and growing practice of student-athletes switching schools to stack a team for a run at a provincial championship.
That practice has damaged competitive fairness and is not keeping with the principle of varsity sports being for students who live in a school’s neighbourhood, the MHSAA said this week.
"School sports is playing for your school, playing with your friends, it’s not free agency," MHSAA executive director Morris Glimcher said. "The problem is getting worse, it’s getting out of hand."
The rule would affect any student who had played a varsity sport in Grade 10 — he or she would have to sit out a year of competition before being allowed to play that sport at another school.
An appeals process would consider legitimate academic or family reasons for changing schools, such as the family moving into the receiving school’s catchment area, a family split, bullying, or to access an academic program not available at the school the student wants to leave.
"The minister did meet with MHSAA in March," said an aide to Allum.
"Sports is an extracurricular activity and (the department) has legislation that governs schools of choice, but does not include extracurricular activities," she said.
"The department does not intend to change the Public Schools Act to include or prohibit extracurricular as part of schools of choice. We would expect that MHSAA would have full support from the educational stakeholders if they want to implement such a policy in sport," said the minister’s aide.