The Illinois High School Association has agreed to waive its eight-game qualification rule, allowing some Chicago schools to be seeded in state playoffs - but they're not in the clear just yet.
According to the board's vote, which was prompted by an appeal from Simeon Career Academy, means schools who were unable to complete the eight-game requirement due to a teachers strike in Chicago can still be seeded in the playoffs. Those schools will need to resume practice by Oct. 30 in order to play their first-round playoff game, however, or they will be forced to forfeit their games.
The ruling impacts Simeon as well as Chicago Military in Bronzeville and Phoenix Military Academy.
Simeon only played six regular-season games this year after they did not have a week 2 opponent due to a miscommunication with the opponent and they did not play a recent game due to the ongoing strike.
The school had also appealed for the board to waive its practice requirement in the event of the strike, but the board declined. That means the team must have three separate days of practice with the school to be eligible to play when playoffs start on Nov. 1.
“Due to circumstances beyond their control, the three schools in question found themselves lacking the requisite number of games to participate in the State Series despite having otherwise qualified,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “Due to these unique circumstances, the Board felt it appropriate to waive the minimum game rule for those impacted schools. The Board did not feel it appropriate to modify the three-practice rule, however. Acclimatization in the sport of football has been a focal point of our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee over the past decade, and the medical professionals who advise us believe it is vital to the safety of our student-athletes. Given how many student-athletes have been negatively impacted by this strike, at the very least, it was a positive to eliminate some of the unknowns as it relates to the timeline for CPS football teams to participate in the IHSA playoffs.”
The board received a similar request from soccer athletes but declined to hear that appeal.
“We have received several inquiries about the IHSA Board hearing today’s appeal, while not reviewing a previous soccer appeal request,” Anderson said. “The reasoning is very clear. The previous soccer appeal sought to participate during the strike, which we are simply unable to compromise on due to the safety and liability concerns it places upon on the participating students, schools, host venues, game officials, Chicago Public Schools and the IHSA."
This isn't the only case facing IHSA when it comes to the Chicago strike.
After days of asking for officials from both the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools to come to an agreement that would help keep them on the field, a group of cross country athletes is now part of a lawsuit against the association as they try to compete in state tournaments.
All week long, athletes have expressed their dismay that they would potentially be kept out of IHSA competitions because of the ongoing teachers strike, and some are concerned that the tournament would have been their best chance at potentially getting athletic scholarships that would enable them to attend college.
“This is not about whether or not we think CTU or CPS is right or wrong. This is about these kids working hard all summer and fall and deserving the chance to compete in state championships and qualifying meets,” attorney Kevin Sterling said.
For their part, CPS is throwing the blame at the IHSA.
“This is not a CPS decision,” CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said. “We’re not using our kids as a pawn in this whole strike debate. IHSA rules clearly state we need 51 percent of our students in attendance in order to be an operating district, and therefore we can’t participate because of the stoppage.”
The IHSA sent out a statement with its own stance on the rule, citing a State Board of Education bylaw that says that if students aren’t in school on the date that competition begins, they aren’t allowed to participate.
“If a school is on strike and not in legal session, as defined by the State Board of Education, on the date of the beginning competition of any IHSA State Series, students from that school may not participate in the state series,” the organization said.
In response, attorneys have filed an emergency injunction on behalf of cross country athletes, seeking a temporary restraining order to prohibit the IHSA and CPS from keeping the athletes from competing in State Series events.
A judge is expected to rule on the case Friday.
The Chicago teachers strike entered a seventh day of canceled classes Friday.
Although no agreement was reached Thursday, officials with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union say that there was some progress made in negotiations. Both sides said Thursday they've made progress at the bargaining table but disagreements remain on big issues like class sizes and staffing.
About 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike Oct. 17, canceling school for more than 300,000 students.