Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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Homeless student barred from basketball team

A middle school student in Kentucky is suing his school because, he says, the school barred him from playing on the basketball team because his parents don’t live in the school district, Courthouse News reports.

A middle school basketball game, Jan. 5 (Jill Carlson / Flickr CC)

The student is identified in the lawsuit only by the initials QW, and he has been staying with a couple, to whom his parents have granted a one-year power of attorney, after transitioning “between and among different schools and residences for the majority of his life,” according to the complaint, filed in federal district court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

QW and the two adults he lives with say teachers and staff at North Laurel Middle School in London have been understanding of his living arrangements and have generally met his educational needs.

But in October, QW tried out for and made the basketball team at the middle school. The school then told him he couldn’t play on the team “due to a policy that prohibits students from participating in sports unless the student’s parents live in the school district,” according to the complaint. The district has said it can’t make an exception to this policy.

Plaintiffs believe that policy unfairly discriminates against homeless students, even though QW isn’t technically “homeless,” just living with a couple who aren’t his parents.

There’s also a federal law, known as the McKinney-Vento Act, under Title VII of the Every Student Succeeds Act, that prohibits schools from discriminating against students on the basis of those students being homeless. It ensures that homeless students “do not face barriers to accessing academic and extracurricular activities.”

Speed is of the essence here, since the basketball season only has nine games left, according to the complaint. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction forcing the school to allow QW to resume his spot on the team, as well as punitive damages for the alleged violations of the McKinney-Vento Act and other civil rights violations.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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