Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc. v. R.T.

The DeSoto County School District entered into a contract with a private entity called the Mississippi High School Activities Association (“MHSAA”). The terms of the contract allowed MHSAA to decide whether School District students were eligible to play high school sports. In making its decisions, MHSAA applied its own rules and regulations, and neither the School District nor its school board had input into the process. In 2012, R.T. was a star quarterback for Wynne Public School in Wynne, Arkansas. His parents, the Trails, decided that a change of school districts would be in R.T.’s best interests, so in January 2013 they bought a house in Olive Branch and enrolled R.T. in Olive Branch High School. Their daughter was to remain in Wynne until the school year ended. MHSAA determined that R.T. was eligible to compete in spring sports and allowed R.T. to play baseball. MHSAA conditioned R.T.’s continuing eligibility on the Trails’ daughter also enrolling in the School District at the start of the 2013-2014 school year. But, because the Trails’ daughter did not want to leave her friends behind in Arkansas, the family decided that one parent would stay in Arkansas with their daughter, as they had done during the spring semester, and the other parent would move to Mississippi and remain with R.T. On the eve of the 2013 football season, MHSAA notified the school and R.T. that, under its interpretation of its rules and regulations, R.T. was ineligible to play because it had determined that his family had not made a bona fide move to the School District. Neither the School District nor Olive Branch High School appealed through MHSAA’s internal procedure, so the Trails immediately filed a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction in the DeSoto County Chancery Court. The chancellor signed an ex-parte order granting the TRO and revoking MHSAA’s adverse eligibility determination. "While it generally is true that high school students have no legally protected right to participate in high school athletics,25 once a school decides to create a sports program and establish eligibility rules, the school—or as in this case, MHSAA—has a duty to follow those rules; and it may be held accountable when it does not do so. . . . And where, as here, the school delegates its authority to control student eligibility through a contract with a private entity, we hold that students directly affected by the contract are third-party beneficiaries of that contract. For us to say otherwise would run contrary to the very reason for extracurricular activities, which is to enrich the educational experience of the students." R.T. had standing to challenge MHSAA's eligibility decision that prevented him from playing high school sports. The Court affirmed the chancery court in this case, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc. v. R.T." on Justia Law