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Perry v. Ohio High School Athletic Association

October 11, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge Abel


I. Background

Defendant, Columbus Public Schools ("CPS"), is a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association ("OHSAA") and has agreed to abide by the various rules, regulations, and bylaws of the OHSAA as part of its membership agreement. (Doc. # 45-2 ¶ 4.) In April 2004, Plaintiff transferred from Brookhaven High School to Africentric High School ("Africentric"), which is one of the high schools within the CPS district. (Doc. # 1 ¶ 7). The school is a member of the OHSAA. Id.

The OHSAA's bylaw 4-7-3 concerns the athletic eligibility of students who transfer between schools within the same school district. It provides that the "superintendent or person delegated by the superintendent of either a non-public or public school system may transfer students within the system without jeopardizing their eligibility. Such transfers are eligible only after approval by the Commissioner." (Doc. # 45 at 1, 2)(emphasis added); see also Doc. # 1 ¶ 16.) CPS has trained its athletic directors and personnel on the requirements of bylaw 4-7-3 and the process for determining eligibility of student athletes who transfer between schools within the district. (Doc. # 45 at 2.) Specifically, the Director of the Department of Student Activities trained all athletic directors, including the former Africentric athletic director, by performing the following: annual summer workshops for all athletic directors; pre-season meetings with athletic directors, principals, and coaches in the fall and spring; and bi-weekly meetings with all athletic directors. (Doc. # 45-2 ¶ 7). Africentric's former athletic director attended all the workshops and meetings and had opportunities to speak with the Department of Student Activities regarding any questions or concerns on eligibility and any other issue. Id.

Prior to Plaintiff's participation in sports at Africentric High School, Africentric's former athletic director was required to comply with OHSAA bylaw 4-7-3. Id. ¶¶ 8, 9, 12, 16-17. Standard bylaw 4-7-3 protocol instructs the athletic director of each school to send or hand deliver the student athlete's name, birth date, transferee and transferor school, and dates of enrollment to the CPS's Department of Student Activities for all student athletes who made intradistrict transfers. Id. ¶ 9. CPS's Department of Student Activities has no authority to approve or disapprove any request for student athlete transfers. Id. ¶ 13. Rather, the Department of Student Activities acts as a "conduit" for the passage of information; once it receives the transfer request, it must submit to the OHSAA's office the request for approval of the student athlete's intradistrict transfer. Id. ¶ 13. The Department of Student Activities then notifies the particular athletic director whether the OHSAA approved or disapproved the student athlete's intradistrict transfer in accordance with bylaw 4-7-3. Id. ¶ 9. CPS also instructs the athletic directors that a student athlete who transferred within the district could not participate in sporting events for his or her school until approval from the OHSAA. Id. ¶ 10.

In this case, the former Africentric athletic director never sent a request for approval of Plaintiff's transfer under OHSAA bylaw 4-7-3 to CPS's Department of Student Activities. Id. ¶ 17. Consequently, the Department of Student Activities never received a request to submit to the OHSAA for approval of Plaintiff's intradistrict transfer, and therefore the OHSAA did not respond regarding approval or disapproval of Plaintiff's transfer as required under bylaw 4-7-3. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17-19. Upon realization that OHSAA had never approved Plaintiff's transfer to Africentric, the Department of Student Activities then notified the OHSAA that CPS had no documentation establishing that Plaintiff's transfer was approved as required under bylaw 4-7-3. Id. ¶ 20. Because Plaintiff was an ineligible transfer, the OSHAA required under bylaw 11-2-1 that Africentric forfeit all basketball games in which Plaintiff had participated, which was the entire 2004-05 basketball season including the state championship game. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff claims to have received the most valuable player ("MVP") award by the OHSAA or CPS. Id. ¶ 22. CPS has no knowledge of the details or retraction of Plaintiff's award. Id. It is clear, however, that neither OHSAA nor CPS was responsible for presenting the award or retracting it. Id.

Plaintiff then sued OHSAA and CPS in the Franklin County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff asserts that both Defendants violated his: (1) procedural due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) First Amendment rights; and (3) due process rights. (Doc. # 1 ¶¶ 1-34.) Additionally, Plaintiff asserts a claim for negligence against CPS. Plaintiff seeks relief in the form of an injunction, monetary damages, and attorney's fees and costs.

OHSAA and CPS removed this action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1441 on October 13, 2005. (Doc. # 1.) In its March 22, 2006 Opinion and Order, this Court granted in part and denied in part OHSAA's Motion to Dismiss and thereby dismissed Plaintiff's free speech and procedural due process claims against OHSAA. (Doc. # 34.) After Plaintiff and OHSAA reached a settlement agreement, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion to dismiss all claims against OHSAA and dismissed OHSAA as a party on July 20, 2006. (Doc. # 44.) CPS now moves for summary judgment. (Doc. # 45.) Plaintiff has failed to respond on all claims against it.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In viewing the evidence, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party who must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Muncie Power Prods., Inc. v. United Techs. Auto., Inc., 328 F.3d 870, 873 (6th Cir. 2003)(citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)); Hamad v. Woodcrest Condo. Ass'n, 328 F.3d 224, 234 (6th Cir. 2003). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." See Muncie, 328 F.3d at 873 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Consequently, the central issue is " 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.' " Hamad, 328 F.3d at 234-35 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

The Court must therefore grant a motion for summary judgment here if Plaintiff, the nonmoving party who has the burden of proof at trial, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element that is essential to his case. See Muncie, 328 F.3d at 873 (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). However, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "a district court is not . . . obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim." InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989).

III. Analysis

A. Procedural Due ...

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