Judge rules against student athletes seeking to compete in playoffs during teachers strike, IHSA waives game requirement for Simeon

BySarah Schulte, Eric Horng, and Alexis McAdams via WLS logo
Saturday, October 26, 2019
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CPS student athletes will not be able to compete in playoffs during the Chicago teachers strike, a judge ruled Friday evening.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Student athletes will not be able to compete in playoffs during the Chicago teachers strike, a judge ruled Friday evening.

The families of 14 Jones College Prep student athletes filed an emergency injunction Thursday against the Illinois High School Association and the Chicago Board of Education. The emergency filing sought a restraining order so student athletes could compete in playoffs.

The Jones College Prep runners were considered contenders for a state title, but on the eve of their regional meet their season has come to an end.

"It feels incomplete, and having things incomplete it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth," said Jason Mei, Jones College Prep student athlete.

"Thankfully I'm not banking on any scholarship money, but I do know of students who are," said Colin Greiner, Jones College Prep student athlete.

Judge Eve Reilly rejected their motion to allow kids to compete during the strike, writing, "It is not fair and it is wrong. However, the court must balance student safety above all other concerns."

Jude Reilly cited the potential conflict from coaches crossing the picket line, and potential dangers of having school facilities open but not adequately staffed.

A judge heard arguments from both Simeon and the IHSA Friday morning at the Thompson Center.

More student athletes could be affected as the strike drags on, because a certain amount of games and practice are required to be eligible to compete.

Some teams have already missed the first state qualifying competitions, while others are scheduled for this weekend.

According to the IHSA strike policy, "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 in any IHSA state series, students from that school may not participate in the state series. However, when students from any member school first participate in the beginning level of competition in a given state series that state series is considered to have begun for all entered schools.

The IHSA Board of Directors took action Friday on an appeal filed by the Simeon Career High Academy's football team in an effort to compete in the state playoff competition.

Simeon holds a 6-1 record, and has only played seven games this season because of a game that fell through during one normal week and because of a canceled game due to the teachers strike.

The IHSA board voted to waive the eight-game requirement for CPS schools impacted by the strike. The teams include Simeon, Phoenix Military Academy, and Chicago Military-Bronzeville.

The ruling means Simeon can compete in the state playoffs, which begin November 1, as long as the teachers strike comes to an end by Tuesday or Wednesday. That would allow the team to practice three days, as required under the ruling, before competing.

"Just keep prayers and keep working and just hope the strike ends. That's all we can do," said Charles Ervin, Simeon football player.

The teams will also be required to play their first round playoff games, which will be ruled as a forfeit if they are unable to return to practice by that date.

"It gives us an opportunity. Of course, some other things have to go right with the strike ending and things like that," said Dante Culbreath, Simeon Head Football Coach.

"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," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "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."

So far the IHSA has not responded to ABC7's requests for comment.